The Army Lawyer | Issue 1 2021View PDF

null Azimuth Check

Mr. William Koon (center), Mr. Eric Hammerschmidt (right), and Ms. Jennifer Talley (left) celebrate Mr. Hammerschmidt and Ms. Talley’s graduation from the 69th Graduate Course at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia. Ms. Talley and Mr. Hammerschmidt are DA Civilians who were selected to attend the graduate course. (Credit: Jason Wilkerson, TJAGLCS)

Azimuth Check

Sharing Expertise

JAGC Senior Civilians Continue to Develop Themselves and Others

The Judge Advocate General’s (TJAG) directive for attorneys to become masters in one or two areas of the law as their careers progress1 fulfills the “expert” part of his description of judge advocate legal service (JALS) personnel—expert and versatile. For military attorneys, versatility is a must as they cycle through necessary and varying assignments in almost all areas of military law. It is the Civilian attorney who is best situated to spend the most time in one field of practice; thus, mastery—which is certainly enhanced by experience and time spent on the job—is more easily attainable for those dedicated to their craft and able to practice in one legal discipline for several years.

In recognition of the Civilian attorney’s key role in an Office of the Staff Judge Advocate (OSJA), TJAG created the “Senior Civilian” role in 2007,2 making the leadership team for each OSJA a “Foundation of Five.” Because Senior Civilians across the Army already serve as mentors and leaders in their fields and on their teams, it made sense for TJAG to support a course through The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School so that Senior Civilians can better understand their leadership roles and increase awareness of the strategic vision and goals of our organization.

To that end, the inaugural iteration of the Senior Civilian Law and Leadership Course (SCLLC) took place virtually 19 to 22 January 2021, after over a year of planning this important event. Over seventy of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps’s (JAGC’s) civilian leaders met to receive updates on key areas of the law and legal policy, and to hone their leadership knowledge and skills. Represented in these students was more than 3,000 years of legal experience, all masters in their own right: experts in labor law, federal litigation, health care law, contract and fiscal law, and administrative and civil law, among other JAGC practice areas. Giants in their fields, Senior Civilians are leading their teams and the Corps each day, like, for example . . .

1. Mr. Gary Chura, the Senior Civilian and Chief of Client Services at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Mr. Chura was an inaugural winner of the Corps’s Regimental Award in 2019, has deployed three times as a judge advocate in the Reserve Component, and recently appeared as a panel member for an American Bar Association continuing legal education on domestic violence and military families.

2. Mr. Gary Baumann, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) & Fort Campbell, Kentucky OSJA Senior Civilian and Chief of Administrative/Civil law. Mr. Baumann’s team was named Fort Campbell’s Civilians of the Year for 2020 (team category).

And. . .

3. Mr. John Jakubowski, the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and Presidio of Monterey, California, OSJA Senior Civilian, who is currently deployed under the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s Ministry of Defense Advisors Program in Afghanistan.

Although Department of the Army (DA) Civilians have been in service with the military since 1775,3 they became more involved with legal services around 1865, when the War Department created the Freedman’s Bureau (which closed in 1872). “Several hundred Army civilians helped former slaves find employment and locate family members dislocated during the chaos of the war. Other bureau employees established schools to instruct reading and writing and acted as legal advocates for freed slaves in court cases and litigation.”4 Today’s DA Civilian Legal Assistance practitioners can take pride in the important roles they have been filling for over 100 years.

It is clear that Senior Civilians fill a vital role in an OSJA for continuity and helping to shape new team members. Though military personnel cycle through OSJAs frequently, the Senior Civilian remains on the team5 and is continually charged with infusing the newly-formed team—with all the new chemistry of recently-joined personalities—with the positive aspects of the former team. Senior Civilians, as masters in their fields, train and guide newly-accessed attorneys, and their leadership is oftentimes crucial as they mentor judge advocates, warrant officers, paralegals, paraprofessionals, and fellow Civilian attorneys. Mastery and leadership go hand in hand for the Senior Civilian—each lends credibility to the other and, arguably, cannot exist without the other. This new course brings Senior Civilians together in a collaborative way, to share leadership experiences, receive updates in the law, and sharpen their skills in both of those areas. The next iteration of the course is in January 2022, and we are already working on further developing leadership and legal topics to feature. While our Senior Civilians are certainly expert in their practice, we all continually strive to ensure we are fully prepared to lead in every OSJA’s Foundation of Five. TAL

Mr. Koon is the Judge Advocate General’s Corps’s Senior Civilian and the Director, Civilian Personnel, Labor & Employment Law for The Judge Advocate General’s Corps at The Pentagon in Washington, D.C.


1. Lieutenant General Charles N. Pede, JAGC Constant #2: Mastery of the Law, TJAGLCS, (last visited Apr. 28, 2021) (highlighting the second of the four Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAGC) constants: (1) Principled Counsel, (2) Mastery of the Law, (3) Stewardship, and (4) Servant Leadership).

2. The Judge Advocate General Special Announcement 37-12 (13 June 2007) (Lieutenant General Scott Black, The Judge Advocate General, announcement concerning the creation of the “Senior Civilian” in the JAGC).

3. See The Highest Level of Skill and Knowledge: A Brief History of U.S. Army Civilians, 1775-2015 (Stephen J. Lofgren ed., 2016), (noting “these quiet professionals have always been a vital part of the Army profession”).

4. Id. at 20.

5. Id. at 5 (Brigadier General (later-Lieutenant General) James H. Pillsbury noted in 2003: “A real strength of our civilians is that they are stable, remaining in their jobs for much longer periods of time than the military. They thus learn their jobs and are able to hone the skills necessary to be at the highest level of skill and knowledge in their fields.”).