By Angelika LantzJuly 27, 2009
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - It's nothing like on television. The four students currently working at the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's Office of the Staff Judge Advocate and the Kaiserslautern Legal Services Center picked the "wrong" military branch. No jetting around like the elite Navy lawyers portrayed in the television adventure drama "JAG" for these interns.
Nonetheless, a sense excitement and adventure prevails. After all, they are four of only 75 second-year law students the Judge Advocate Recruiting Office in Washington, D.C., selected to serve as legal interns in JAG offices worldwide.
"Even without the jets, this is one of coolest opportunities. We get to experience a JAG office and a bit of life in the military - and we do it while we live and travel abroad," said Nichole Venious who is studying law at the University of Michigan.
Her fellow intern - Ryan Mylrea, a law student at Tulane University Law School - agrees. "This is an irreplaceable opportunity to experience what JAG life is like. It's only for two months, but during that time, we even live in the barracks," he said.
The legal interns hail from families with neither legal nor military backgrounds, thus jokingly referring to themselves as first generation. They arrived at the 21st TSC in June and will intern for two months. Now, towards the end of their stay, they admit to also having had to deal with preconceived misconceptions about military personnel.
"They are all incredibly disciplined, but I expected that. What I didn't expect is how closely the Army mirrors American society in general. I expected a more homogenous population," said Robert McCray, who studies law at Howard University School of Law.
While Soldiers may mirror American society as a whole, the Uniform Code of Military Justice holds these Soldiers to a specific set of standards that are new to these interns.
"It is shocking to learn that Soldiers get in trouble for some of their personal choices, like committing adultery, because they violate the Army's morale code and laws," McCray said.
Not so surprising, on the other hand, is the amount of research that is prevalent in the military legal environment just like in its civilian counterpart.
"What is unusual is that we have to use a totally different framework of reference here - it's all about Army regulations," said Ian Fiske, a law student at the University of Virginia School of Law.
In the past, many of the legal interns have joined the JAG Corps as commissioned officers. McCray and Venious had that option in mind when they applied for their internships. Now, despite the research grind, they remain committed.
"I have been thinking of going on active duty and this opportunity really helped to confirm my decision," Venious said.
"I am interested as well and I do want to apply," said McCray.
It seems like they might be the new generation of the JAG Corps, after all.