JAG Corps Soldiers have served in front lines since 1775
There are many components that make up the foundation of today’s Army. There is everything from infantry to special operations, support, and logistics – each one adding to the mission. There is one section however, that serves as a building block for all the rest. That section is the Judge Advocate Generals Corps.
On July 29, the JAG Corps will be celebrating its 238th birthday. The organization’s mission is to develop, employ, and retain one team of proactive professionals, forged by the warrior ethos, who deliver principled counsel and mission-focused legal services to Soldiers, their Families and the Nation.
The JAG Corps was founded July 29, 1775 by Gen. George Washington, because he believed that the Army needed to have a Judge Advocate assigned to oversee all of the courts-martial being conducted. He appointed William Tudor as the first Judge Advocate of the Army. After the Revolutionary War, the Jag Corps began to grow by adding paralegals, court reporters, and additional attorneys to oversee and give legal advice on things such as Operational Law, Military Law, and Civil Law. By the year 1918, the Corps was employing over 400 Judge Advocates. Together, the Corps provided the structure and support for maintaining order and discipline within the Army.
Some people may believe that the JAG Corp does mostly paperwork. Those people could not be more wrong. Throughout history, the Corps has been home to many Soldiers who have fought and died in combat – Soldiers who have lost their lives to support the mission.
One of two Soldiers in particular is Chief Warrant Officer 5 Sharon T. Swartworth. She was killed in action in Tikrit, Iraq in 2003. Swartworth was the Regimental Warrant Officer of the Corps and awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility.
Sergeant Michael M. Merila, also lost his life serving his country. He was an outstanding non-commissioned officer dedicated to his mission. His chain of command was very impressed with the dedication and motivation he showed in all of his assignments. Merila was a Paralegal Specialist and was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash. In 2004, Merila was deployed with his unit to Iraq. The day before his 24th birthday, Merila’s convoy was attacked by enemy combatants near Tal Afar, Iraq. Merila was acting as the gunner on the rear vehicle when he suffered a mortal wound. Merila was honored with a stain glass window in the JAG Hall of Heroes at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, for his bravery and sacrifice, June 21, 2007.
There are more Soldiers of the JAG Corps who have given their all. They were all good Soldiers and are missed by many.
Ultimately throughout history, members of the JAG Corps have performed immeasurable acts of bravery. Soldiers from the JAG Corps train and fight alongside fellow Soldiers together as a team, serving our country and standing true to the saying “One Team, One Fight.”