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Educate, Train, Inspire

September 07, 2012 | Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Grimes

For most of this week, new faculty members at the JAG School -- myself included -- are spending time talking about how to teach.  The Criminal Law Department spent a day doing this a few weeks ago, but this time it's a more formal affair and a review of school-level resources.  The timing is terrible.  The department is in the midst of a heavy cycle of teaching -- we recently wrapped up the Basic Course, last week finished the Military Justice Managers Course, and next week we start our first Intermediate Trial Advocacy Course.    This was not the time I needed to be out of the office for three days.  That said, it has been (in part, anyway) an interesting time.

The most important to me so far has been the first thing mentioned -- the JAG School's vision statement.  What are we here to do?  The goal of the JAG School is to educate, train, and inspire legal professionals within the JAG Corps, the Department of Defense, and the greater legal community.  These are great words.  Educate.  Train.  Inspire.

It's a little known (or little appreciated?) fact that the JAG School is the only federal education agency that offers an ABA-approved LL.M.  As part of our career development, every mid-level judge advocate spends a year here, thinking about law, leadership, and working toward an advanced degree.  Hopefully our flying under the radar will end -- my Department Chair, in particular, is working to raise our public profile within academia and the profession.  But even if no one else recognizes it, we are definitely educating our students.

Training is an area within which the Crim Law Department really excels, and this is particularly true for our Officer Basic Courses.  We educate - ensure everyone understands the basics of criminal law and procedure.  But we are also training court-room litigators, preparing them to apply law to facts and to advocate on their feet while doing so.  This might be the most fun part!

But, inspire!   This might be the most important part.  Inspire.  I love this word.  This is word full of meaning and responsibility.  With our diverse constituency of students -- brand new judge advocates, mid-career professionals (and peers!), senior legal leaders, etc. -- it means a lot of different things and requires a lot of different methods of interaction.

So, as I'm thinking about how to embrace this role, what are your tips?  Who were the professors/teachers/mentors who were most meaningful to you?  Even better, why did they mean so much to you?  Come on, make me better.



  • Jim Gawne, MSG, USA (Ret)
    9/7/2012 5:02 PM
    Major G -

    Three people come to mind, all of whom I met in my first six months in the Army back in 1974. The first is Drill Sergeant Barfield. He helped an overweight, out of shape, 18 year old kid overcome numerous obstacles in Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. Not through harrassment and intimidation, but through coaching and encouraging. Second is Drill Sergeant (SSG) Selkirk. When we arrived at Ft. Sill for AIT, Drill Sergeant Selkirk met all of the 15J (later 13P) students as we arrived. For the next two months, he was our mentor and guide in all thinks military. I had the good fortune to meet SSG Selkirk again a few years later when I was assigned to Ft. Sill. He was a caring, decent and honorable man who would not tolerate any tom-foolery. Lastly, MSG Noeding, our instructor in Missle Fire Direction at Knox Hall at Ft. Sill. MSG Noeding was the very first person who taught me that a computer is nothing more than a tool to help people make decisions. He also taught me to never forget "Garbage In, Garbage Out" I can attribute the many assignments that I have had, and later civilian jobs that I have held, that relate to computers and information technology directly to MSG Noeding. These three NCOs all had such an influence on a young soldier that now, 38 years later, I can still see their faces and hear their voices.
  • Thomas Grier
    10/15/2012 1:20 PM
    The greatest mentor in my life was always setting an example. He set himself apart because I knew he "walked the walk," I knew he was telling me something that he had learned through work and not theory. He also made himself available and "genuinely" took an interest in my life and professional development.

    In addition, I have just graduated law school and have recently applied to JAG again. Thanks for the blog update.

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