Among the best kept secrets of the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps is the hidden gem of the exchange officer1 post in the United Kingdom (U.K.). Recently relocated from the schoolhouse in Warminster,2 this Lieutenant Colonel billet sits in the heart of the British army’s strategic operational law support effort at Army Headquarters in Andover, Hampshire. This total-immersion operational law role offers an unmatched, two-year broadening opportunity in every sense of the word.
Working in a secured area directly for the British Army’s one-star, Head of Operational Law, the exchange officer focuses on three major efforts as the chief of operational law policy, doctrine, and interoperability. First and foremost, the exchange officer provides legal support to the Army Headquarters directorates. This includes direct involvement in operational law policy efforts, broader capability development activities, communications and engagements, and support to the Land Operations Centre3 legal advisors on strategic issues. Second, the exchange officer coordinates the development of land component legal doctrine within the Army and provides desk-level input into operational law policy at the Ministry of Defence and other partners across government. Often relied upon to offer feedback from both a U.K. and U.S. point of view, the exchange officer has a unique opportunity to provide input to strategic policy from a perspective that promotes interoperability with the United States and other allied forces.4 Last, the exchange officer seeks out legal engagement opportunities and represents the JAG Corps to current and future senior leaders across the Ministry of Defence, the Army, the other “Single Services,”5 and other nations abroad.
As noted by the highest levels of military leadership on both sides of the pond, the reality of future warfare is undoubtedly a coalition-based affair.6 However, outside of equipment development programs, our formations tend not to instinctively consider multinational interoperability before we deploy together on operations. By identifying, coordinating, and participating in legal engagement opportunities, the exchange officer enables progress toward the strategic objective of enhancing a shared understanding of the culture, traditions, and legal frameworks at play with our closest allies.
To this end, the exchange officer is a key member of the British Army’s operational law engagements team, and regular travel is the norm. When not abroad for events with the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, the International Society of Military Law and Law of War, the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, the U.S. Combatant Commands, or at a variety of other organizations, the exchange officer is regularly engaged in London at the Foreign Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, or travels across the United Kingdom to visit units across the Army.
While the level of exposure and opportunity to learn about our closest ally at this level is unmatched anywhere else in the JAG Corps, this experience is not limited only to professional development. The exchange officer is regularly invited to special events7 and has a chance to see Europe from the international travel hub that is London. Command-sponsored family members enjoy a fully immersed experience as well. They are able to attend top-notch private British primary and secondary schools through the Non-DoD Schools Program8 and are able to qualify for private British medical care through TRICARE Global Remote. Command-sponsored family members also benefit from unparalleled access to an immense collection of premier cultural venues and historical sites within the United Kingdom and across Europe.
While generally “off the beaten path” of assignment options, the JAG Corps exchange officer position in the United Kingdom is an incomparable broadening opportunity in the heart of our nation’s closest allied army. TAL
1. This position is established under a reciprocal Military Personnel Exchange Program agreement, governed by Army Regulation (AR) 614-10. U.S. Dep’t of Army Reg. 614-10, Army Military Personnel Exchange Program with Military Services of Other Nations (14 July 2011). The United Kingdom’s ‘mirror’ exchange position in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps is the Multinational Director at the Center for Law and Military operations at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia.
2. The Land Warfare Centre is located in Warminster, United Kingdom. See generally Gareth Davies, On Becoming Genuine, Military Simulation & Training (Mar. 4, 2019), https://militarysimulation.training/articles/on-becoming-genuine/.
3. The Land Operations Centre is analogous to the Army Operations Center at the Pentagon.
4. In line with the Office of the Judge Advocate General and U.S. Army Europe priorities and guidance.
5. Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
6. See, e.g., Harry Sarles, Top British General Delivers Annual Kermit Roosevelt Lecture at CGSC, Army.mil (Mar. 8, 2019), https://www.army.mil/article/218310/top_british_general_delivers_annual_kermit_roosevelt_lecture_at_cgsc.
7. E.g., D-Day 75, Regimental Dinners, Mess Formals, United States-United Kingdom Dinner Club Events.
8. Non-DOD Schools Program (NDSP), Dep’t of Def. Educ. Activity, https://www.dodea.edu/nonDoD (last updated June 14, 2019).