In this post, I share my experience during week 1 of the Army JAG School in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After six weeks of DCC, last week I finally began JAG School. (JAG School is a nickname for this stage of our training. The official name is the Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course or JAOBC.)
The difference between DCC and JAG School is night and day, and I can already tell that this is going to be a great experience.
The class is conducted at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School (TJAGLCS) located on the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The campus—or grounds, as the University insists it be called for reasons that I don’t understand—is quite beautiful.
It definitely feels like an academic environment. In fact, the University of Virginia School of Law—one of the best law schools in the country—is located right next door to us. We often walk over there for lunch.
Unlike DCC, soldiers associated with the JAG Corps, either as judge advocates, paralegals, or legal administrators, run the JAG School. Also unlike Fort Benning, we outrank very few people. Except for a handful of paralegals—who are NCOs—and legal administrators—who are warrant officers—the building is populated with senior officers. The head of the school is a one-star general.
Almost all of the instructors are field grade officers—that is, majors to colonels—and various other classes are going on for senior officers.
The graduate course, for example, lasts a full academic year and is designed for judge advocates recently promoted to major. There are judge advocates from all services, not just the Army, in attendance. The course is accredited by the American Bar Association and awards an LLM in military law following its completion.
Also, unlike Fort Benning, the accommodations are very comfortable. There is a hotel located inside the JAG School. So, we can leave our rooms in the morning and go downstairs to class without ever going outside.
We also each get our own room, which is a nice change as well. In another nice touch, like a hotel, the rooms have daily maid service. So, this obviously feels nothing like Fort Benning and is a comfortable environment in which to live and study.
(Below is a picture of my room.)
Structure of the Army JAG School
Classes run from 9:10 to 5:20 every day. Leadership has broken the course up into different blocks of instruction to include criminal law, fiscal law, legal assistance, and administrative law among others.
For the next few weeks, we will focus on military criminal law before moving on to another area of study. We get a ten-minute break every fifty minutes, so the days pass quickly.
JAG School feels a lot like law school. I generally appreciate academic environments, so I am really enjoying myself here.
It’s also very motivating to be learning about something specific to my field. While DCC was an invaluable experience, the teaching was on subjects that were broad to the Army in general. Here they teach things particular to being a judge advocate.
We have PT three times a week here, typically on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The PT is much more intense than what we did at Fort Benning. Most of the physical training at Fort Benning was basic exercises and some circuit training. We did minimal running.
That is not the case here.
Before arriving, the cadre divided us into six run groups based on our run times on the PFT we took at Fort Benning. The primary goal of these different groups appears to be to improve our PFT scores. The cadre told us that the average score from the last class by the end of training was about 270. Considering that 180 is a passing score, this is quite impressive.
While the training is more intense than at DCC, it is also much more enjoyable. The officers leading the training do it with us, and we understand the purpose of what we are doing.
We run a lot more. This is good for me, as I would like to improve my run time more than anything else.
Next week we continue working through our military justice block. I’ll follow up with a new post next week to provide some updates.
I provide a more expansive account of my experience at the Army JAG School in my book The JAG School Survival Guide: Succeeding at the Army’s Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are the author’s own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, the National Guard Bureau, the Arkansas National Guard, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.