BAGHDAD"Legal professionals from the United States Forces " Iraq, gathered together to decommission the Sgt. Maj. Cornell W. Gilmore Memorial Courthouse here July 29.
The courthouse, the center of American military justice in Iraq, was named after Gilmore, who when serving as the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps’ regimental sergeant major, was killed in action when his helicopter was shot down in northern Iraq in 2003.
“Sgt. Maj. Gilmore was a truly an amazing man and Soldier,” said Sgt. Maj. Cyrus Netter, command paralegal, 25th Infantry Division. “Having this building named after him here is one of ways that the JAG Corps honors and remembers him.”
“Relatively few of us here were privileged to serve with SGM Gilmore; it’s been eight years since he passed,” said Col. Kevan Jacobson, staff judge advocate, USF-I. Gilmore “was a big man, who loved soldiers and loved soldiering. It was not a coincidence that he rose to the highest enlisted position in our corps. Here we honor his memory, which still looms large in the corps, and forever will.”
As the center military justice in Iraq, the courtroom has seen its fair share of action, including the arraignment of Saddam Hussein.
“Saddam was arraigned here and that was a momentous event, because [it] established that the law of ‘might makes right’ and the strongman days were over,” said Col. Stephen J. Berg, deputy staff judge advocate, USF-I, and staff judge advocate, XVIII Airborne Corps. “From then on Iraq was going to operate under the rule of law…rather than fear.”
The courthouse has also served as a classroom and learning laboratory for Iraqi and American legal professionals.
U.S. forces have been “training Iraqis and having them observing our courtroom procedure and training them in our rule of law system,” said Berg. “We have also trained U.S. JAGs and paralegals in their trade " [this courtroom] has served multiple purposes. It is a sad day to see it close…but we are still going to be here, but will focusing on other things.”
The building’s namesake has served as a motivation to many of the people who have passed through the courthouse’s door, encouraging greatness and professionalism, even entreating its occupants to ‘have a nice day’ " one of Gilmore’s trademark expressions.
Gilmore “was known for enforcing high standards, pushing his soldiers to meet and exceed those standards, for their own betterment and the betterment of our Corps,” said Col. Michael J. Hargis, chief circuit judge, U.S. Army Trial Judiciary, 5th Judicial Circuit. “It has been [an] honor to preside in cases in a courthouse named for " and dedicated to the memory of " Sgt. Maj. Cornell W. Gilmore.”
One of the ceremony’s attendees mentioned that the decommissioning was more of a remembrance for Gilmore, a Soldier’s Soldier who lingers largely in the memory of those who served with him. And with the ceremonious removal of the American flag from the building, another chapter in history closed.
“While this building may no longer be officially referred to as the Sgt. Maj. Cornell W. Gilmore Courthouse and while the trappings of this place and the man are moved to another place of honor in the United States,” said Hargis, “none of us for a minute should believe that Sgt. Maj. Gilmore’s spirit will be any less with us here " or wherever we go.”