Fort Riley, Kansas



Brigade legal services focuses on the Soldier, command team

By Maria Childs | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | February 10, 2017

     Editor’s Note: This is part five of a seven-part series on the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Riley.

     The 1st Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade legal team consists of one brigade judge advocate, a trial counsel, a noncommissioned officer in charge and several paralegals. The team serves as legal advisors for the command team of the brigade.

     Maj. Travis Sommer, brigade judge advocate, 1st Inf. Div. Sust. Bde., said the legal team is in an interesting situation because they have two commanders — Col. Allen Cassell at the brigade and Lt. Col. Joe Mackey at the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate.

     “It’s kind of serving two masters,” he said.

     The brigade has two battalions and each one is authorized a paralegal. Paralegals drafts court actions including Article 15s and administrative separation.

     “Typically, especially in a garrison environment, that paralegal is going to work in the brigade legal office,” Sommer said.

     While the paralegals work with the brigade’s team, the trial counsel is located in the OSJA in the military justice division. The trial counsel is the prosecutor in a trial. Each member of the team shares the same mission — advising the commander.

     “We are here primarily to advise the commander, provide whatever legal support the brigade needs,” he said.

     Unlike other offices in the OSJA, brigade legal teams deploy as their commander deploys. While they are in a deployed environment, they’re job only changes slightly.

     “Our job in garrison is very similar to what it’s like when we deploy,” Sommer said. “The sustainment brigade is going to pick up a lot of battalions when it deploys as opposed to a BCT (brigade combat team) which deploys with what it has in garrison. Legal operations are going to be pretty much the same.”

     Sommer said an armored brigade does more kinetic-type operations so they will run into more operational law issues whereas a sustainment brigade will be moving supplies and convoys and will run into more contract law issues.

     “The legal issues are going to be tied to the type of work the unit is doing,” he said.

     The brigade’s team sends Soldiers to legal assistance regularly because as part of the brigade team they represent the Army and its interests. If they are providing a Soldier with legal advice, it would be a conflict.

     “We get everyone from the most junior private to the brigade commander with legal issues,” Sommer said. “We’re like a mini OSJA, but we don’t have the manpower to do legal assistance … If my client is the Army, it’s hard for me to represent a Soldier.”

     Despite being located on Custer Hill, he said the team feels just as much a part of the OSJA as if they were in the same building.

     “There’s a lot of dialogue between the offices,” he said.


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