News: Joint Legal Center gets support from 'Show Me' state lawyers
Soldiers from the 35th Area Support Group deployed to Iraq in September to support the Mayor's Cell, or garrison command, for the 3rd Corps Support Command at Logistical Support Area Anaconda.
The 35th ASG, a National Guard unit from Lexington, Mo., also has representatives at the Joint Legal Center office, which recently opened in October. The 35th ASG legal staff works with the 3rd COSCOM lawyers and paralegals along with Soldiers from the 40th Corps Support Group and other tenant units.
At the legal center, Col. Stephen Danner, 35th ASG Command Judge Advocate, is not only responsible for his unit, but acts as a legal advisor to the 3rd COSCOM commander.
"JAG officers have a dual role; we have to wear two hats. On one hand we have to be the special staff to the commander and on the other hand we have to represent our own unit on legal matters," he said.
Danner and the legal team from the 35th bring knowledge to the military justice system from their civilian jobs which aid the center.
"I don't think there is any doubt that we bring a specialty to the table. I'm doing the same job here as I do in my civilian job. I work with construction, contracting and developing through my own company and I've been in private practice for 25 years, so I've already been through most of the operational functions we do here," Danner said.
Two NCOs on the staff work for the state of Missouri and Capt. Keith Essmyer, administrative law section, is another Missouri lawyer who works for a law firm that specializes in governmental relations.
The administrative law section focuses on providing legal advice to commanders in theater.
Although the enlisted representatives at the legal office do not work in the law arena in their civilian jobs, they collectively have a great deal of time working with military law, said Sgt. 1st Class Donald Neal, 35th ASG Senior Legal NCO.
The governmental experience helps relate to the mission of the 35th ASG, because Anaconda is run much like municipalities that are common in the United States, Danner said.
Danner cited as examples that the Provost Marshal and the Directorate of Public Works resemble a city police force and department of public works.
Danner spent two years working as a city attorney in Chillicothe, Mo., from 1981 to 1982 and also served as a state representative and a state senator.
"I'm very familiar with the government process," he said.
The mixture of active and reserve components at the JLC enables the lawyers from all the units to specialize more.
"We utilize all of our joint assets and each attorney in the office brings an expertise and capability to the office," Danner said.
For the active duty lawyers, they work on a day-to-day basis on Uniform Code of Military Justice; however, the 35th does not drill on UCMJ action, Danner said.
"Where they have UCMJ practice, we have other areas we work in that they are not as familiar with, like contracts and state laws and how they pertain to the Soldiers," he said.
"As a Guard unit from Missouri we have not had much experience with citizenship matters, yet here our legal assistance office will be hosting a ceremony on Dec. 17 where 114 Soldiers will be receiving their citizenship. This is a good example of a combined joint activity where we can jump in and be of assistance" he said.
The 35th ASG has been an active participant in laying the ground work at the JLC and will continue to meet mission requirements of the 3rd COSCOM command and maintain the synergy of LSA Anaconda and its Soldiers through legal support.