By U.S. ArmyJuly 15, 2010
FORT STEWART, Ga. - She first joined the Army in June 1984, enlisting as a 27D, paralegal specialist. Now at the top of her profession, Sgt. Maj. Claudia L. Turner looks back on her career, satisfied that she made the right decision to join the Army and the right decision to be a paralegal specialist.
In September, this Army Reserve Soldier, who is currently serving on active duty with the 3rd Infantry Division's Staff Judge Advocate office, will take charge of a new Army Reserve unit. She'll be the first command sergeant major for the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command as well as the first female command sergeant for U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.
Originally from Chattanooga, Tenn., Sgt. Maj. Turner said she hadn't really planned to make the Army a career at the time she first enlisted. She said she enlisted for the education benefits, but near the end of her 3-year enlistment at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, she was asked by a reenlistment noncommissioned officer about her plans. College. She was going to college.
When told she could join the Army Reserves, have a good part time job and continue to serve in a career field that supported the degree she was pursuing, she joined the Reserves.
Shortly after she graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a B.S. in criminal justice, her Reserve unit was mobilized for Desert Storm, at Fort Campbell, Ky., and OIF/OEF in 2003-2004 at Fort Bragg, N.C., Sgt. Maj. Turner said. She also served on active duty in 2008-2009 when she attended the 9-month long Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. Sergeant Major Turner has been attached to the 3rd ID's SJA since September 2009.
In addition to her bachelor's degree, Sgt. Maj. Turner has earned her paralegal certification from George Washington University, an American Bar Association approved program and a master's in leadership from the University of Texas at El Paso.
"Any young person interested in law and who would like to work with attorneys in the courtroom, interview witnesses or be a court reporter might consider joining the Army as a paralegal," the senior noncommissioned officer explained, noting that court reporters were required to obtain an additional skill identifier. "Paralegals assist attorneys for all non-judicial punishment such as Article 15s, and we assist attorneys in preparing for a court martial."
She laughed when asked if she gets to do the investigative work paralegals are seen doing on television dramas that supposedly depict the exciting life of a JAG office.
"No, we don't do that kind of investigative work," she said, smiling. "What we do is more behind the scenes, more in line with what the Army does. No undercover scoop."
Sergeant Major Turner said she applied for the command sergeant major position for the new legal command when she heard it was being advertised. As with any high ranking position, application packets were assembled by interested, qualified sergeants major from the throughout the Army Reserves then a selection board reviewed the application packets and made their selection. Her selection makes her the senior enlisted Soldier for the U.S. Army Reserves Legal Command.
"Our primary focus will be assisting the 23 legal detachments that support the legal command," she said. "The detachments vary in size from 50 to 120 Reserve Soldiers - attorneys and paralegals. I will work with the unit Commander, Brig. Gen. (Gil) Beck, advising and assisting him with getting this new unit organized."
Sergeant Major Turner, who is married to Master Sgt. Ira Turner, also an Army Reserve Soldier, will report to her new assignment in September. The U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland.