The JAG Corps’s DEI Council Established
The Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps’s Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) (“the Council”) has been going full tilt since its inception in July 2020. The twenty Council members appointed by The Judge Advocate General (TJAG) represent a diverse pool, reflective of our Corps’s population across race, gender, rank, and component. The Council aims to ensure our Corps is best postured for maximum talent management of every single member of our Judge Advocate Legal Services (JALS) family, ensuring we are educated and aware of DEI-related considerations at every possible turn. This article shares with the Corps some of the initiatives and engagement the Council has been involved in over the past year.
Establishment of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI)
On 25 March 2021, TJAG established the ODEI, led by Colonel (COL) Luis Rodriguez. The ODEI’s mission is to provide leadership and guidance in the formulation, execution, and management of policies and practices that foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment consistent with the core values of the JALS. To accomplish this mission, the ODEI’s charter includes data analysis and metrics, policy review and development, training, advisory support, and diversity recruiting (equal opportunity and sexual harassment/assault response and prevention are beyond the scope of the DEI’s charter). The ODEI will accomplish its mission through mutually-supportive engagements with all JALS activities that are primarily responsible for the missions of recruiting, retaining, and developing JALS personnel. We are excited to put COL Rodriguez to work.
Survey to the Field
The Judge Advocate General provided an opportunity for JALS members to identify issues related to DEI via survey in fall 2020. There were 1,801 responses. Respondents overwhelmingly believe that the JAG Corps does extremely well with issues of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and discrimination.1 Success is attributed to the fact that, as a Corps, we are, in part, responsible for delivering justice, and providing support to victims.2 Success was also attributed to JAG Corps leaders who strongly denounce behaviors which fall short of Army and JAG Corps values.3
Some survey comments reveal, however, that within the JAG Corps there are perceptions of personnel being discriminated against and reports of actual discrimination, or exclusion based on race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.4 There were relatively few instances where respondents reported that an organization’s culture was blatantly racist, or that they overheard racially-insensitive comments. Most respondents who expressed concerns about racial discrimination were worried that implicit bias could impact career success or influence assignment decisions.5 The survey revealed a lack of trust and transparency regarding how decisions that impact minorities are made.6 This sentiment was most pronounced in the ethnic minority female population who conveyed a feeling of being unwelcomed in the Corps.7 Respondents were also cautious about sharing concerns with their leadership based on fears of reprisal.8 The survey gave senior leaders and the ODEI insight into JALS members’ daily experiences that are not frequently discussed, and the results provided a baseline that reveals where to focus future initiatives and against which to measure growth and success.
Since 29 October 2020, over 200 people across the globe participated in one of the five DEI listening sessions. A report of the comments and recommendations from these virtual sessions is being compiled for use by the Council in advising TJAG. The open and frank dialogue of these sessions was invaluable in giving the Council a broader understanding of the concerns and issues that exist across our Corps. We are very proud of all of the participants for their willingness to share their fears, challenges, and experiences—both positive and negative. Everyone’s voice matters!
The DEI Council has established nine field boards representing all ranks and levels of military members and Civilian employees. The boards will discuss and analyze a specific line of effort every two months. The first line of effort is recruiting. The chief of the Judge Advocate Recruiting Office (JARO) briefed the field boards on our recruiting efforts, and the boards have met virtually since April 2021. The field boards provided their analysis and recommendations to the DEI Council at the end of May 2021. The boards will then be given a new topic to address. Talk with field board members near you to hear about what they are doing.9
Naming of the Regimental Reading Room at TJAGLCS
With the recent passing of Sergeant Major (SGM) John H. Nolan, our first Regimental Sergeant Major and a trailblazer in our Corps, naming a room at our Regimental home honors his impact on our Corps and his dual legacy. Before becoming a legal clerk, SGM Nolan enlisted as an 11B Infantryman and then went to Officer Candidate School and became an officer. He eventually returned to the active duty enlisted ranks as a legal clerk.10 The Regimental Reading Room adjacent to the library and Noncommissioned Officer Academy at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been renamed the SGM Nolan Regimental Reading Room. The renaming perfectly captures his dual legacy as both an officer and noncommissioned officer because the location of the room physically unites the Academy’s area of operations to an area of the building frequented by officer students.
The Council wants to hear from you! Submit comments or recommendations to be considered in future DEI initiatives to the Council at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also keep up with the Council on MilSuite at https://www.milsuite.mil/book/community/spaces/armyjag/council-on-diversity-equity-inclusion and JAGCNet at https://www.jagcnet2.army.mil/Sites/DivInc.nsf/home.xsp.TAL
1. Office of The Judge Advocate General, Defense Organizational Climate Survey, 6 Oct. 2020–6 Nov. 2020.
9. JAG Corps Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council Field Board Member Roster, JAGCnet, https://www.jagcnet2.army.mil/Sites/DivInc.nsf/0/77212AE41FC44337852587030051C159/%24File/JAGC%20DEIC%20Field%20Board%20Member%20Roster.pdf (last visited July 13, 2021) (Field Board member assignments are available via login to Department of Defense members).
10. For more on Sergeant Major Nolan’s career, see Fred L. Borch III, In Memoriam, Army Law., no. 1, 2021, at 17, 21–22.