UNION COUNTY – Laura Eckstein, a local lawyer in La Grande has been commissioned as an officer with the Army JAG Corps with the Oregon Army National Guard. The following is an interview between Eckstein and Elkhorn Media Group regarding this commission.
(Q) Laura, you announced last week that you had been commissioned as an officer with the National Guard. Can you tell me a little about that?
(A) I had the honor of being commissioned as an officer in the Army JAG Corps with the Oregon Army National Guard. JAG Corps stands for Judge Advocate General’s Corps and that’s just a fancy way of saying the lawyers for the military.
It’s a pretty unique opportunity to be able to use my legal skills to help my country in terms of National Defense and that takes shape in a number of ways, kind of just depends on what your skill sets are and what the Army needs.
(Q) What did you have to do in order to be commissioned?
(A) JAG officers have to first, of course, be attorneys. They have to be graduated from an ABA-accredited school. And they have to be duly licensed in good standing in the state where they live, and I’m actually licensed in three states and have been practicing law, almost 23 years.
I actually wanted to do this right out of law school, I went to law school with my brother. He went right into JAG Corps served in Iraq and did 20 years as a JAG officer. Then after he retired, I finally thought, you know, I wish I had done that, but I thought I was past the age requirement, but thankfully they have something called an age waiver which is a great opportunity for the Army to take advantage of professionals who might be past that prime age that we think of for military service but have a unique perspective and a lot of experience to offer.
So, there’s a cool program, the Army has, that I did not know about called a Direct Commission, that is the path that I took. Normally you hear about people enlisting and then going to basic training and going up the ranks. The other route is you graduate from college and become an officer and go up through the ranks. But Direct Commission is something that is unique for professionals. So typically, that’s your doctors’, lawyers, it could be a number of other professionals, but that person can actually essentially skip that process and come straight in as a commissioned officer, in my case, a first lieutenant.
So that is something that we do as the Army to entice and attract professionals so that we can have greater services for the Army.
(Q) What sorts of things will you be doing?
(A) I first have to complete my training that involves going to Fort Benning and then to University of Virginia Law School has a program with the JAG Corps called JAOBC that’s in Charlottesville, Virginia. And once I get kind of trained up on everything then I will be assigned to one of a number of different options. It could be anything from advising soldiers, on their wills, or divorce, or on financial matters, to advocating in court as a Prosecutor Defense Attorney. I could also be advising commanding officers on interpretation of military law, and again, you serve wherever the Army needs you.
(Q) Is there anything else about the JAG that you think people would be interested in knowing about?
(A) It is an interesting position to be in because you’re an army officer. The motto is Soldier. First, Lawyer Always. It’s interesting to be an attorney who also has to be able to fight and shoot a gun and be physically fit and be willing to fight for the country. And while that is rare, for instance, my brother I mentioned was a JAG Officer and in Iraq, they came under enemy fire, he got a Bronze Star and although it is unusual an attorney can be in a position to actually have to be that soldier first and maintain that credibility and that professionalism as an attorney to protect the interests of the US Army.
Additional information on JAG can be found at https://www.nationalguard.com/jag