News: Bliss legal Soldiers hold first JAG Challenge
Story by David Poe
FORT BLISS, Texas - After sprinting three-eighths of a mile from the last station, you receive a piece of paper which reads, “Pvt. Jones purchased a washer and dryer set from Sears a year ago and his warranty is about to expire. Can he use his government-networked computer at work to go online to renew it?”
If you read this somewhere other than this newspaper, you are:
A. A military law professional
B. A soldier
C. A participant in Fort Bliss’ first JAG challenge on main post, Thursday.
D. All of the above
If you answered D, you are correct.
Dozens of military legal professionals from across Fort Bliss gathered for the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate-hosted event which combined fitness, military proficiencies and legal know-how, wrapped in a tight competition which modeled the popular reality game show, “The Amazing Race.”
“As an office, every Thursday we perform some kind of professional development event,” said Capt. Jennifer McKeel, an operational law attorney with Bliss OSJA, along with being the main organizer of the event, “and Lt. Col. [Jeffrey] Miller, the deputy SJA, came up with that idea, assigned to me and we’d been working at it for a couple of months.”
For more four hours, lawyers and paralegals from ten unit legal teams respected safety and traffic laws as they barreled their way across main post. Each clue received led to a station which offered a challenge. Those who successfully completed it were given the next clue, eventually ending at Bldg. 50.
Led by the legal team from 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, which blew away the competition with a time of 3 hours and 24 minutes, McKeel said she felt the soldiers enjoyed the event as it challenged all skill sets.
“It seems like everyone had fun,” she said. “One of the things I tried to do in developing the events and the challenges was to make it an even keel for everyone from the enlisted soldier to a captain-level attorney so that both would have some to offer at each event.” Bliss MaD Brigade came in a distant second at 4:03:00 and 4th HBCT, 1st AD Legal was on their heels as they came in at the 4:09:00 mark. Lending credence to McKeel’s hopes for the day, Pvt. Kyle Steele, a soldier and paralegal from Bliss’ MaD Brigade, said a year between JAG Challenges would be too long.
“I’d love to do this more often,” he said, “like once every quarter. For team unity, working well together means if anything goes on in the office, we’re going to work as a team on that thing as well.”
He also said it benefitted his individual skills as well.
“There was a lot of ‘attention-to-detail’ required today and that’s a big paralegal thing” said Steele, “when you get a task it shows you can be done in 20 minutes, so there shouldn’t be any issues. Also, it was good to come out because attorneys could test their legal skills and challenges, our paralegals could test their skills as paralegals, and work together with the attorneys, which isn’t always what they get to do.”
Capt. Guillermo Rovayo, a lawyer with 4th HBCT, said he enjoyed working side-by-side with two of his paralegals during the event and said it’ll make them a better team back over at East Bliss.
“[The paralegals] were great today,” said Rovayo. “This was a team building exercise and it helped us with cohesiveness because for four hours we had to rely on each other. I learned a lot about how they work and they learned how I like to work.”
Sgt. Harley Jordan, a paralegal also with 4th HBCT, who ran with Rovayo, said another benefit of the challenge was to expose legal Soldiers to work tasks they may not usually get to practice every day.
“We stepped into each other’s realms,” he said. “The enlisted men got in on a lot of the legal research and Captain Rovayo got to practice his soldier skills. It was awesome.”
In all of the “awesomeness” of the day, McKeel said she hoped the event benefitted those who ran it, and also the Bliss community as a whole, as some of them may have been surprised to see the legal teams pushing themselves to the limits across main post.
“I think a lot of the community doesn’t get to see as a whole when it comes to attorneys is usually we’re at a desk or in the courtroom,” she said. “This event also tested our physical training ability and Soldier skills. We’re attorneys and paralegals and we’re soldiers; this also shows that we have that training.”