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NEWS | March 1, 2023

Many Roles, One Team: The Interactive Training of Mock Administration Separation Boards

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

Army Reserve Trial Defense Service attorneys and paralegals assigned to the 22d Legal Operations Detachment’s (LOD) Pacific Northwest Region and their counterparts in the multifunctional 6th LOD conducted two joint mock administrative separation boards on Feb. 4-5, 2023, in-person and virtually at the JBLM Cascade Courtroom Complex.

The 22d LOD, headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, specializes in defending Reserve servicemembers pending adverse legal actions in a military setting. The 6th LOD provides legal assistance to the Soldiers of the U.S. Army Reserve and joined the 22d LOD’s Regional Team for a joint training exercise in February.

“Training firsthand in a situation where you can see your errors is very valuable,” said Sgt. David Lange. “I feel very much like the backbone of the legal professional here. The lawyers and judges can argue and deliberate all day long, but nothing happens without the paralegal. It’s an important role, especially when you see your projects come together.”

Lange, a native of Lynnwood, Washington, serves as a legal assistant in Medicaid appeals as a civilian and as a paralegal noncommissioned officer in the 6th LOD as a Reservist.

Staff Sgt. Justin Martinez serves with the U.S. Postal Service as a civilian and is currently an Active Guard/Reserve (AGR) paralegal noncommissioned officer of the 6th LOD. He developed scenarios for a mock administrative separation board, with members from the units participating as live “witnesses” for the administrative proceeding.

From securing the actual courtroom and equipment for use, making sure the equipment works and noticing all the parties involved (e.g., defense, government, witnesses, board members), paralegals were a vital part to the success of the exercise.

During the mock boards, Judge Advocates served as defense counsel to train and provide thorough and zealous representation to Soldiers. Maj. David Mangan, son of a Vietnam War veteran and an active duty faculty member of The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, acted as the board’s legal advisor and provided additional instruction for the training.

Mangan is a direct commissionee who entered the U.S. Army in 2010 and currently teaches in the Administrative and Civil Law Department. He commented that the presence of Army Reserve Judge Advocates provided advantageous learning opportunities for all who attended, as each contributed a diversity of legal experiences from their civilian practice and were able to build professional connections.

The mock boards were beneficial not only for the attorneys who participated, but also to junior and senior attorneys and paralegals who have never seen or conducted boards.

“Seeing how it goes and what it can look like helps when you do conduct a board,” said Mangan, “you can take notes while thinking through things you may want to train or improve on. Legal professionals from all specialties can take what they learned and apply those skillsets to both their military and civilian occupations.”

In addition to the attorneys and paralegals, Army Reserve Officers of the 654th Regional Support Group also participated in the mock boards. They included personnel from various branches, Adjutant General, Military Police and the Corps of Engineers.

The 654th RSG’s presence was fundamental to hone the skills of the participating attorneys since boards of officers are generally comprised of non-legal professionals. This requires lawyers to communicate arguments in a manner understood and persuasive to board members.

Maj. Nathanael Swift, a native of Salt Lake Valley, Utah and Judge Advocate assigned to the 22d LOD, served as the defense counsel during the mock administrative separation board. He was a lawyer in his civilian practice for years before deciding to join the U.S. Army Reserve.

Swift enjoys serving as a prosecutor in his civilian practice and the opportunities of being on the opposite side serving as a defense counsel in the U.S. Army Reserve Trial Defense Service. He described enjoying his role in honoring the Soldiers for their service in providing quality representation and consideration for their needs, maintaining that professionalism regardless of the board’s outcome.

“When you put on the uniform . . . there’s a purpose, a meaning,” said Swift.

Soldiers may request defense legal services to include representation when charged with military criminal offenses; representation during criminal investigations and before elimination or grade reduction boards; and counseling for Soldiers regarding pretrial restraint, nonjudicial punishment, and various adverse administrative actions taken pursuant to military regulations through