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NEWS | May 1, 2023

Army Reserve Legal Professionals Experience Real World Scenarios through Situational Training Exercises

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

The U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command Mobile Training Team (MTT) challenged legal professionals of the 153d Legal Operations Detachment (LOD) and 4th LOD with a Situational Training Exercise (STX) simulating the urgency and conflict of real-life scenarios across various locations in the eastern region on March 4, 2023.

The challenge for the participating 45+ Soldiers was to react, plan, and work four unexpected legal scenarios rooted in real-world issues with their Pittsburgh, Pa. team and 4th LOD counterparts in Fort Dix, N.J. and West Point, N.Y. Lt. Col. DeShun Eubanks, Exercise Director, Deputy G-3, immediately appointed Col. Eugene Ham, commander of the 153d LOD, as the Task Force Commander and exercised command and control of both participating units and the tactical operations center. Col. Ham described this exercise being more about a leadership aspect in a time of high pressure compared to solely a legal realm.

“The big Army is talking about the VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity – world in operations and situations,” he said. “This type of uncertainty and conflict is expected when you’re in theater. Nobody will tell you what to do and you need to figure out the situation. Comms (communication channels) may not all be working and exercises like these get people into that mindset to learn to deal with that stress and work across different units.”

The MTT team, led by Lt. Col. Eubanks and Master Sgt. Evan Kershaw, G-37 training noncommissioned officer-in-charge, developed several different scenarios used to train legal professionals. The STX was focused on providing legal support to command discipline, providing legal advice to detention operations (to include law of armed conflict and international law issues), and addressing a SHARP-related incident.

“This training gets personnel used to different battle rhythms,” said Ham. “It’s the shock that gets them going and it’s interesting to see how focused they are when they lead their teams.”

Col. Ham delivered his intent for members of the 153d and 4th LODs to work together in all scenarios, with Soldiers of all levels spread across three locations. Organization played a large role in communicating digitally, establishing accountability, division of labor, and assignment of resources amongst the teams to operate with urgency and accuracy. Ham especially highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion in these teams, saying “There is no such thing as rank-based knowledge. For that reason, you want to create a team with all kinds of different kinds of people and that really needs to be part of our culture.”

Spc. Joshua Cazales, the first in his Family to join the military and a paralegal of the 153d LOD, reflected on the training pushing them to put their studies and preparation into practice on a real-time cadence: “It’s different. It got me thinking. I learned how serious the scenarios we were given should be taken. Situations where we’re under pressure and need to provide correct and accurate answers for problems are challenging.”

One scenario involved detainee operations, which were especially prevalent with Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 20 years. Lt. Col John Flammer, III, a team chief of the 153d LOD and Task Force Staff Judge Advocate during the STX stated that “This scenario was interesting because it incorporated real world events with the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia,” he explained. “We had to determine personnel status under the Geneva Conventions and work through that problem set together.”

Each scenario culminated in the team briefing the Task Force Commander of their courses of action and presenting their best legal advice for the situation. Each scenario also centered on one of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps core competencies, encouraging creative problem solving and collaboration for the team to succeed.

Flammer praised the effectiveness of the teams, sharing “anything could conceivably come up in a real-world situation and our Soldiers could be deployed/mobilized. From our specialists up to our lieutenant colonels, they performed well in quickly evolving circumstances. Working as a team and having to use all assets you have to accomplish the mission on extremely short notice was challenging yet rewarding.”

Ham aspires for more training opportunities that challenge Soldiers to break professional habits rooted in comfort and familiarity. With participants spanning across all ranks, positions, and areas of expertise, Ham’s intention for the STX seemed centered on fostering a team environment that rewards initiative and commitment to excellence. “It’s the habit of being curious and trying to learn what's going on rather than sitting and waiting to be told to do something. It's incumbent on us to stay curious and get involved in the conversation to see how we can add value to the process.”