February 08, 2008

SIGNS OF THINGS TO COME; Pacific area legal teams train to deploy

Where DO you suppose this guys are headed??

by Tech. Sgt. Chris Vadnais
Air Force News Agency

12/12/2007 - POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii (AFPN) -- Two dozen experts in military law deployed to this desolate training area on the island of Hawaii Dec. 9 to spend a week sharpening their skills in preparation for upcoming deployments.

The Pacific Air Forces-sponsored Pacific Joint Operations Legal Exercise, or PACJOLE, is an annual localized training event comparable to JAG FLAG, the judge advocate general exercise held at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Just like they might in a real deployment, the teams, carrying all their gear, faced nasty weather and a healthy uphill hike upon arriving at the training area. The training area, a 100,000-acre slab of land covered with loose volcanic rock in the middle of the island, is a perfect place to simulate deployments; it's quiet, seemingly deserted and wide open.

During the five-day exercise, each team of two -- one lawyer and one paralegal -- will sit through about 15 hours of classroom lesson-and-discussion sessions and run through 30 role-playing scenarios. Legal officials from Headquarters PACAF will observe and critique the students' responses to the scenarios. The goal is to get the students ready for upcoming deployments.

"Almost all these JAGs and paralegals are getting ready to deploy," said Lt. Col. Mark Pollard, PACAF's chief of international law. "If they can handle these situations here, in a fairly austere environment, it'll give them the confidence that when they deploy they can handle anything they face there," he said.

The scenarios are loosely based on events that have actually happened in the Pacific theater. In one of them, a Senior Airman is held in custody for allegedly raping a local national. The legal teams must negotiate with the prosecutor and the jailor to get custody of the Airman in accordance with an international agreement.

That's not as easy as it sounds, said Lt. Col. Pollard, a member of the PACJOLE cadre role playing the prosecutor in the scenario.

Master Sgt. Bryan Cawvey, a 13th Air Force paralegal and part of the PACJOLE cadre, said the students don't get any easy answers. But, he said, the answers don't really matter, anyway. Memorizing policies and regulations won't prepare the students for deployments; getting them into the habit of thinking quickly will.

"Maybe they'll never get to meet with a local prosecutor and negotiate the release of somebody, but they may have to go out and negotiate a contract, and maybe they've never done that before," said Sergeant Cawvey. "So really, though they may not face these exact types of situations, this helps get them geared up for the unexpected and helps sharpen how they think on their feet."

The cadre works to make the exercise as realistic and as valuable as possible, updating about 20 percent of the curriculum from year to year. Master Sgt. Jose Bautista, a paralegal with the Pacific Air Forces legal office and a member of the PACJOLE cadre, said most of those changes come from the field.

"In the past, people who have deployed have come back to us to say, 'Thank you so much for giving this type of training in PACJOLE,' and they give us their experience, what they experienced in the deployed environment," he said.

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