Soldiers first, lawyers always: Army Reserve Legal Command hosts Total Force Readiness Exercise

By Sgt. 1st Class Javier Orona | U.S. Army Reserve Command | Feb. 3, 2020

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, —

Soldiers from each of the United States Army’s three components partnered together to conduct a training exercise focused on paralegal and lawyer skills this week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

The event was part of a Total Force Readiness Exercise (TRFX), which has several scheduled training cycles around the country throughout the year. TFRX was developed by the United States Army Reserve Legal Command to increase readiness levels for the Army’s legal career field. Legal Soldiers typically attend training exercises with a mission to facilitate services for other units. That means less control over their own training schedule.

“This is one of the first exercises which primarily focuses on legal professionals,” said Maj. Ian Baldwin, an operations officer with the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command. “We’re getting our Soldiers trained on legally intensive situations in a high-tempo environment.”

TFRX allows legal Soldiers to focus on their own commanders’ training priorities. It also challenges them to complete their normal tasks in a less-than-favorable environment.

The eight-day training exercise, which includes paralegals and lawyers, is of monumental importance due to the type of force multiplication legal professionals bring to the fight. They are part of a specialized career field that works to help maintain the rule of law in the daily lives of Soldiers and their operations.

Paralegal specialists are expected to provide legal and administrative support in all areas of criminal law, international law, civil-administrative law, contract law and fiscal law. They assist judges, judge advocates and unit commanders with a wide range of legal matters and judicial work.

Judge advocates are responsible for offering legal support to Soldiers. Their primary focus is criminal law, legal assistance, civil/administrative law, labor/employment law, international/operational law, intelligence law and contract/fiscal law.

Consolidating training events enables the command to enhance a Soldier’s skillset while better utilizing the command’s resources. This allows the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command to create specific scenarios for Soldiers they wouldn’t have time to conduct in the past.

Legal Operations Detachments (LODs) trained on Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, individual weapons qualification, and legal skills while operating in an austere environment in the winter weather of Washington state.

The training event offered legal Soldiers a chance to get together with their peers to exchange knowledge and build lasting relationships.

Baldwin says legal Soldiers need to be prepared to work through any situation, even if they don’t know what they will face, and TFRX gets them ready to do so.

High readiness levels across all three Army components are vital to ensuring they are ready to mobilize and deploy on short notice.

Working with active component Soldiers during the smaller group sessions allows Army Reserve Soldiers to see what legal issues they tend to deal with more often on a daily basis.

“The Soldiers are really enjoying it,” Baldwin said. “They signed up because they want to do something bigger than themselves, and they’re getting the chance to do that.”

Some Army Reserve legal units have recently been tasked with meeting greater operational and training demands. They will have to be ready to mobilize into major contingency operations much faster than other reserve counterparts.

“Ten of our units were designated as Ready Force X,” said Brig. Gen. Marilyn Chiafullo, commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command. “We knew we had to get trained up as entire units as opposed to individuals … and that’s what this concept brought.”

Chiafullo said she believes they have hit the mark on the Judge Advocate General’s requirement to integrate better and more meaningful training.

The staff exercise (STAFFEX) simulated a joint, combined conflict with scenarios that test the Judge Advocate General Corps proficiency in areas such as targeting, detainee and noncombatant evacuation operations, military justice and pre-deployment legal support.

Throughout the training, the Soldiers are placed in a simulated war scenario in Europe. They are given situations that require them to make informed decisions in a timely manner without overanalyzing an issue.

In one scenario, a commander contacts Legal Command with a targeting issue. His unit is in a fight, and he is asking whether or not he has permission to elevate the level of force they are permitted to use by using explosives. The legal team needs to make a swift decision as every passing minute could be costly for their fellow Soldiers facing the enemy.

“Our commanding general wanted to anchor our classroom training to short field problems as well,” said Sgt. Maj. Steve Minyard, outgoing operations sergeant major for the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command. “She wanted to get everyone’s heads right for legal issues they might see in a near-peer competitor conflict.”

Minyard says the field portion helps Soldiers build confidence in the equipment they were issued. This also helps them learn to work legal issues without electricity and internet.

“They’re working through a tough situation, and the quality of our Soldiers is such that they will work as a team and gain greater confidence in those that are next to them,” Baldwin said. “They may not know what the future holds … but we will do what we can to make sure they are ready for whatever it may be.”

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