My Deployment as a Military Lawyer

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Category: International Law & Diplomacy, Legal Practice, Public
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First, I would like to thank Marquette University Law School for the privilege of serving as the Alumni Blogger of the Month. Second, I would ask that readers of my posts please note that my submissions are my personal thoughts and opinions (unless otherwise indicated) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Wisconsin National Guard or the U.S. Armed Forces.

I will now begin the more substantive portion of my post.

In September 2011, I received mobilization orders to deploy as a member of the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB). The MEB is located in Milwaukee. After approximately two months of training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana and Hohenfels, Germany, the MEB embarked on a NATO Peace Keeping mission serving as KFOR (Kosovo Force) 15. More specifically, the MEB served as the command element of Multi-National Battle Group-East.

Under the authority of the United Nations (UN Security Council Resolution 1244), NATO has been leading a peace support operation in Kosovo since June 12, 1999 in support of wider international efforts to build peace and stability in the Balkans.

There are four major components to KFOR’s mission: (1) contribute to a secure environment and ensure public safety and order; (2) support and coordinate the international humanitarian effort and civil presence; (3) support the development of a stable, democratic, multi-ethnic and peaceful Kosovo; and (4) support the development of the Kosovo Security Force.

For more about the history of the conflict in Kosovo, KFOR’s mission, and the escalation of violence in 2011, please visit http://www.aco.nato.int/kfor/about-us/history.aspx.

With regard to my individual role throughout the deployment, I served as a military lawyer, also known as a judge advocate. I had two primary and one secondary responsibility during the deployment. My primarily responsibilities were that of (1) serving as the U.S. Army Foreign Claims Commissioner (FCC) for the Balkan region and (2) providing legal assistance and counsel to all U.S. service members, DoD employees, and contractors assigned to Kosovo. My secondary responsibility was that serving as a legal advisor to the Commander, Multi-National Battle Group-East. This later responsibility was shared with two other judge advocates.

With regard to my FCC responsibilities, I investigated and adjudicated all claims involving the U.S. government throughout the Balkans. Generally, the claims involved property damage to U.S. property or that of the local population. My FCC duties required me to frequently interact with the local population and presented many challenges. In total, I adjudicated approximately 100 claims during the duration of the deployment.

My legal assistance duties involved the administration of legal services in the areas of tax preparation, estate planning, family law, consumer law, and various other areas to all U.S. personnel assigned to Kosovo. Having a conglomeration of personnel from various states that made up our troop strength in Kosovo, my legal assistance duties also presented many challenges as a legal professional.

With regard to my legal advisor duties, those duties generally involved issues related to policy development, rules of engagement, legal sufficiency of investigations, administration of military justice, fiscal law, and other statutory/regulatory requirements imposed on the military.

In total, my deployment lasted slightly more than 12 months in duration. It was a very rewarding experience both personally and professionally. Now that I have given a very brief description of KFOR’s mission and my role as a judge advocate in a deployed environment, I welcome any questions or comments that you may have.

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2 Responses to “My Deployment as a Military Lawyer”

  1. Renan Atkins Says:

    Are there any restrictions to make video recordings during missions? Despite the high quality of mobile cameras, most videos of millitary operations appears to be very amateur.

  2. Yes, there are many restrictions as to what can be recorded. The safety of our service men and woman always takes priority. In addition, there may be several other factors that may limit the quality of such recordings. First, in many of these locations, the environment may not be conducive for shooting video (gun fire, weather conditions, safety considerations, etc.). Second, many of the recordings may have been made by individual service members (using their cell phones, etc.) and not by personnel who have specialized training in this area (i.e. Public Affairs personnel). Third, it is also likely that the recording equipment which is used is not on par with that used by other entities.

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