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NEWS | Feb. 28, 2023

From Law Student to Military Judge: Incoming 150th Legal Operations Detachment Commander Reflects on Career Path

By Capt. Nancy Drapeza U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command

A distinguished military law career spanning more than 24 years of active duty and reserve service across the United States and the world prepared Col. Alyssa S. Adams to assume leadership of the 150th Legal Operations Detachment (LOD) in April 2023. A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier, Adams currently serves her nation as a military judge in the 150th LOD and as a civilian attorney for the Department of the Army.

Over 20 Army Reserve Soldiers serve as military judges with the Alexandria, Virginia-based 150th LOD, a critical component of the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command. These legal professionals support active-duty courts-martial worldwide in their Army Reserve capacity while maintaining civilian law practices.

The 150th LOD Commander serves dual roles, commander of the unit and as a military judge. Their responsibilities include ensuring proper selection, training and preparation of trial judges to preside over criminal cases.

While attending Vermont Law School, Adams found her calling in courtroom litigation and sought a pathway to meet her career goals while serving the public. Passing the bar exam in 1998, Adams commissioned in the U.S. Army in 1999 and started work as a prosecutor (trial counsel) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“The options for doing [courtroom litigation] right out of law school are usually a prosecutor’s office, the military or a public defender’s office,” Adams explained. “All of those would have been great options, but I felt that the military lifestyle would be a very good fit for me.”

“I liked the emphasis on physical fitness and the opportunity to travel to new places while serving the country,” said Adams about the multifaceted experience of building her career as a lawyer serving in the Army.

In addition to serving at Fort Bragg, Adams served at Fort Lewis, Washington, Fort Carson, Colorado, and in the Law Department of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Her overseas experience includes service in Saudi Arabia and as staff member in a Brigade Combat Team deployed in support of operations in Iraq.

“As my experience grew in criminal law and military justice, I aspired to eventually become a military judge. I left active duty at about the 10-year mark and there was no question that I would continue to serve in the Reserve,” she said.

Adams presides over cases involving felony-level offenses before a general court-martial. Such offenses may include aggravated assault, drug distribution, domestic violence, larceny, sexual assault and child sexual abuse.

“The offenses themselves are largely similar in the military and in the civilian courts, but there are a number of military-specific offenses that a civilian judge would not preside over, such as failure to repair, absence without leave, disrespect toward a superior, and more serious military offenses such as misbehavior before the enemy, to give a few examples,” said Adams.

She describes serving as a military judge as being the most intellectually challenging job in her time serving in the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.

“I feel a tremendous amount of pressure because I want to ensure I get it right. People’s lives and careers are in the balance and that is a very grave responsibility. Military judges must strive to be subject matter experts in criminal law and military justice. That experience can derive in part from civilian criminal law practice, but it must also include military justice,” said Adams. “While the law and the rules of evidence differ very little from trials in federal court, the procedure is quite different from civilian courts.”

“Serving in the military in any capacity, whether on active duty, in the Army Reserve, or with the National Guard, may be one of the most meaningful and fulfilling experiences you will have in your career, if not your life,” says Adams.

Contact the U.S. Army JAG Corps Recruiting Office (JARO) at (866) ARMY-JAG (866-276-9524), via email at or visit