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The Art of #BJAlife

 

Part I: How to Become a Hit with Your Brigade Command and Staff

 
 
   
   
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Ask any former or current brigade judge advocate (BJA) what the most important task is upon arrival at the brigade, and they will likely respond with a variation of “becoming a member of the team.” This should be intuitive, as it won’t matter much if you are the second coming of Lieber or “Clausewitz with a JD”; if you are not a member of the team, you are not invited to meetings and your advice is not heeded or sought. Your insights may as well be “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”1

Ask any former or current BJA how exactly to accomplish the above, and you will get the opposite of unison: you’ll suffer through musings about how to fit in, ranging from their innate brilliance, to “smoking the rest of the staff in PT,” all the way to “not a clue as to how it happened, it just did.” What is a new BJA to do?

Fear not! This trick will jump-start your integration into the brigade by identifying sources of deeper-level knowledge that will turn a legal section from one that does “legal-related stuff” to one that proactively solves the brigade’s problems. We won’t cover the obvious: you must have relationships with the commanders, the Brigade Executive Officer, and the brigade primary staff officers. You will spend most of your time and effort cultivating those relationships. This article focuses on the lesser-known individuals with whom a minimal investment of time will yield disproportionately high and near-immediate returns when it comes to solving problems as a new arrival to the brigade.2 This trick is laid out in three steps: the people, the lunch, and the questions.

Step One: The People3

Identify the following in your brigade:

  1. 1. Assistant S3
  2. 2. Brigade Safety Officer (BSO)
  3. 3. Fires Section Warrant Officer (FWO)
  4. 4. Brigade HHC Commander
  5. 5. Battalion XOs
  6. 6. “Old Reliable”

1. Assistant S3: Just as busy as the S3 (and possibly busier) is the “3’s XO.” The Assistant S3 knows the goings-on in the plans shop and controls access to and runs the planning meetings. Most importantly, as the executive arm of the plans section, the Assistant S3 is responsible for the first draft of plans. Get to them early and you can affect the planning process at the very beginning—where you can shape the effort by opening potential avenues or foreclosing investment in ones that may yield unacceptable legal risks. This will prevent problems before they make it onto the slide deck.

2. Brigade Safety Officer4: The BSO is likely a veteran or retired Soldier with an in-depth familiarity of the Army, the installation, your unit, and all its equipment. This familiarity provides them with a unique vantage into aspects of the brigade that transcend PCS cycles, namely the unit’s safety culture and best installation practices. Brigade safety officers are not only well-versed in accident investigations, but they are likely to have a deeper understanding as to the systemic, recurring problems that give rise to those accidents. While they may not be able to share everything about their investigations, they remain a critical contact in understanding how accidents unfold, how they affect the brigade’s mission, and how they can be mitigated.5 This input bears directly on your advice to your commanders regarding their preventative policies and directives. Brigade safety officers are also constantly on the move, whether in garrison or deployed. They are a primary source of direct information about the brigade’s activities in distributed operations.

3. Fires Section Warrant Officer: The FWO is the heart, brain, eyes, and ears of the fires cell; they have a hand in nearly every, if not every, function.6 The FWO is the technical guru, and has forgotten more about targeting than you and the Fires Support Officer combined. The FWO is one of the entities on the TOC floor who directly controls the tenor of engagements—if they know you (and your operational law captain), that relationship will instantly make you relevant and credible in the tactical operations center. Know this officer, know the battlefield. Plus, they are almost always willing to give you an impromptu collateral damage estimate tutorial as needed, and you’ll never miss a targeting meeting.

4. Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) Commander: The Brigade HHC commander is typically a second command officer from within the brigade. This is for a reason—this officer knows how the brigade runs and the personalities that drive it. This officer has developed the contacts within the brigade and on the installation and knows how to get things done. They will have a close relationship with the Brigade Family Readiness Group and up-to-the-minute knowledge of fundraising efforts, events, and associated support organizations. Moreover, as a commander, they have a voice at the table when it comes to personnel movements and resourcing at your brigade that will help you take care of your own section (e.g., leave, passes, and TDY).7

5. The Battalion Executive Officer (BN XO): True relationships with the often overlooked BN XOs will yield eyes and ears at the BN level, where a BJA rarely has complete visibility. Battalion commanders may be reticent at first to bring problems to “brigade” (i.e., you), but the BN XOs offer that all-important peer-level candor.8 Battalion commanders are also still in the initial stages of learning how to interact with attorneys; being close to the BN XOs will ease you into that relationship without seeming like an outsider from higher seeking to point fingers.

The BN XOs can offer a quick snapshot of the morale and effectiveness of their battalions. They are adept at identifying challenges at their level, which often end up rising to the brigade commander’s attention if not otherwise addressed; as the battalions go, so goes the brigade. Battalion executive officers can also quickly provide names of investigating officers (IOs), line of duty investigators, and any other names you may need for a legal duty.

6. Old Reliable: Old Reliable will take some time to identify, but every brigade has one. This is the officer at the table who is the consummate friendly, approachable, highly-competent staff officer. This is the officer you know will do a thorough job as an IO on a high-visibility investigation and will not blink when appointed to do it. This is the officer you can pass a note to in the middle of a staff meeting to tell you what an acronym means and will, with only the hint of a smile, explain the difference between TACON (tactical control) and OPCON (operational control) during a bathroom break.9

Step 2: The Lunch

Invite the individuals above to lunch, on you. Depending on the operational tempo of your unit, bringing lunch by their office may be better. During an exercise, a candy bar or energy drink dropped off in their chair goes a long way.10

Step 3: The Questions

Ask these questions:

  1. I’d like to hear more about your job and what you do.
  2. What are you most concerned about?
  3. What can my section and I do for you?

Listen, learn, and understand. Help if you can,11 point them in the right direction if you can’t. Become the person they seek out when a problem arises.

Conclusion

The difference between a mediocre BJA and a great one is that the former identifies problems while the latter identifies solutions. A BJA who understands the inner workings of the brigade is more apt to find those solutions. A singular focus on the commanders and the brigade staff will yield only a tip-of-the-iceberg view of the brigade’s risk profile—the individuals listed above will show you what’s under that murky water. TAL

 


MAJ Casal was assigned as the Brigade Judge Advocate, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division from 2015-2017, with whom he completed a deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and a Joint Readiness Training Center rotation. He is currently a student at Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.



Notes

* This is a reference to the ubiquitous internet “click-bait” ads, e.g., “Lose 20 pounds in three days with this one weird trick!”

1. William Shakespeare, Macbeth (1606).

2. The advice applies to anyone in the legal section whom the Brigade Judge Advocate wants to empower to solve problems at a particular level. At brigade, that includes the noncommissioned officer in-charge and captains. Battalion paralegals should develop similar relationships with their battalion staff.

3. This assertion is based on the author’s recent professional experiences as the Brigade Judge Advocate for 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division from 2015-2017. This was a maneuver BCT, but most every brigade will have equivalent functional areas. Every brigade is different, and this certainly won’t apply universally as to specific personnel. In some cases, the enlisted or officer counterpart may be the better contact or the true “heart” of the section. The functional areas, however, are of such importance that truly low performers won’t remain in the positions for very long.

4. Thanks to Major Michael (JR) Townsend for this suggestion.

5. U.S. Dep’t of Army, Field Manual 6-0, Commander and Staff Organization and Operations para. 2-112 (5 May 2014) (C2, 22 Apr. 2016).

6. U.S. Dep’t of Army, Field Manual 3-09, Field Artillery Operations and Fire Support para. 2-29 (4 Apr. 2014).

7. This applies especially to your paralegals, who are constantly under pressure for office space, details, and other duties.

8. This is especially critical when the degree of difficulty between company command and battalion command is arguably much higher than any other subsequent command, given the seismic shift from task-oriented to organizational leadership.

9. This is purely a hypothetical. But, if it weren’t, the author would owe his thanks to a guy named “Ronnie,” a School of Advanced Military Studies alumnus.

10. Make sure to follow the Joint Ethics Regulation.

11. Be conscious of the professional economies that come with being a lawyer: an Army Regulation 25-50 format memo that takes another staff member two hours to complete may take you only twenty minutes. That particular action may not necessarily be in your “lane,” but capitalizing on these opportunities will build connections.


Part II: How to Remain a Hit with Your Brigade Command and Staff

 

As a brigade judge advocate (BJA), you are operating in a dynamic environment at a break-neck pace. Your team is working hard to close out a never-ending list of administrative and military justice actions while participating in operational and training requirements for the brigade. As you operate in this frenetic environment, what do you need to do to remain fully integrated with staff to sustain mission success for the remainder of your tour? The answers are in three easy steps:

Step 1: Leverage Command and Staff Slides to Enable Command Teams to See Themselves

Your command and staff slides are one of the primary tools to communicate your section’s efforts to the brigade staff. You must tailor specific information to meet your brigade commander’s requirements in a standard format usually established by the brigade S1 or executive officer (XO). Adjust your slides to provide a detailed account of actions’ processing times to increase productivity and force closer coordination with battalion command teams.

From article 15s and administrative separations to financial liability investigations of property loss (FLIPLs) and administrative investigations, document how many days these actions remain in-progress for completion. Use color schemes to track actions that are on time, close to overdue, or long overdue. The brigade commander is like an aggressive chief executive officer (CEO) and battalions are project teams competing for the CEO’s favor at the next product pitch. Documenting processing timelines allows the battalions to see themselves alongside their peers in closing out legal actions. Command teams will want to post good numbers, and you will become more involved in getting them to improve processing times as needed.1 This tweak also aims to limit the dreaded “it’s with legal” excuse the battalions will note in their S1 slides or shout out with confidence during the brief. Fair warning: this requires your legal team to be on top of its game. You are committing battalions to firm processing times, and your team must be equally timely in its own processing of actions that are exposed for all to see. By tweaking your slides with processing timelines, your brigade commander, your XO, and your hard-charging brigade command sergeant major will appreciate your attention to detail and effort in keeping actions moving along. Note: never surprise a section by briefing they’re tardy on an investigation without warning them first. They’ll hate you for life.

Step 2: The Buck Does Not Stop with Your Command and Staff Slides—Build These Additional Products to Stay Connected to Decision-Makers

Command and staff slides are not the only products you need in your kit bag for long-term success in the brigade. The following three products promote keeping you seen and heard, enhancing your value as an advisor:

Build a Working Continuity/Legacy Book for You and Your Brigade Commander: The continuity book seems to have lost its luster in recent years thanks to shared drives and DVD storage devices. However, there is nothing more effective than a bona fide continuity book for the brigade legal section and the brigade commander. The continuity book will be a great introductory tool for when you and the brigade commander arriving on station at the same time. The typical incoming commander, new to brigade command, wants to know the limits of their command authority on a variety of legal and operational issues, and you will have laid the ground work for getting them comfortable with how to operate under various constraints with a continuity book.2

Your continuity book should, at a minimum, consist of tabbed sections covering: division and brigade policy letters, specifically highlighting areas of misconduct withheld to certain command levels and what can or cannot be delegated down; samples of brigade commander action requests and transmittal memoranda; the local installation military justice regulation highlighting key areas for the brigade commander to know, including any prohibited-conduct regulations or policies issued by higher headquarters; Army Regulation 15-6 investigation/FLIPL/line of duty investigation fact sheets; law enforcement/Criminal Investigation Command (CID) investigation criteria that require either military police or CID involvement; gift policies and fact sheets, especially policies that impact gifts for change of commands and hails and farewells; fundraising and military ball planning information, while also covering information related to informal fund set-up and a vetted standard operating procedure (SOP); include a vetted cup and flower fund SOP.

The continuity book also comes in handy if, in the course of your tour, you undergo a change of brigade commanders. Going over a well-organized binder addressing administrative processes or policy areas that your commander should know when engaging with higher headquarters makes a good first impression. From day one, you are laying the foundation for a trusted relationship with the incoming commander. Remember, your continuity book also becomes a great resource that can be revised into a battle book for deployed operations or field training exercises.

Monthly Email and/or In-Person Updates to Command Teams: Your command teams from brigade to company levels operate under a wide range of legal and regulatory frameworks. Lean forward with updates to policies, new guidance, or any type of change that will impact them, communicating the “so-what” aspects of the changes. Establish a rhythm by sending email updates on a monthly basis.3 You are uniquely situated to stay abreast of updates on a variety of legal matters. You have a legal technical chain pushing information to you from your higher echelon, Army Judge Advocate General publications, and other established sources. Also, consider weekly in-person updates at least to brigade and battalion commands. Battalion commanders can invite their company command teams as they see fit. You may be the only brigade staff officer to visit with battalion command teams, setting you apart from your brigade staff counterparts and forming strong connections with subordinate command teams and staff. These bonds will prove useful when battalion and company command teams must opine on difficult cases or initiate legal actions at their levels.

Publish a Weekly or Bi-Weekly Military Justice/Adverse Action Roll-Up: It is strongly recommended to include an attachment to your email updates entitled “[Insert Your Unit Here] Justice.” This separate attachment is a one-page “snapshot” of military justice and administrative actions across the brigade. Consider a section reflecting article 15s (no personally identifiable information, just statistics and results), the number of administrative separations, general officer memoranda of reprimand, and other military justice and administrative actions. Identify any trends, like prevalence of alcohol in the commission of certain offenses or an uptick in adverse actions coming from one unit or barracks. The command team can use this roll-up as another tool to distribute to their company/troop/battery levels to show that Soldiers are held accountable for their actions, dispel the infamous “barracks lawyer” from spreading false or misunderstood information on punitive actions, and allow subordinate commanders to practice preventive law related to the identified trends.

Done right, monthly updates and adverse action publications accomplish a few long-term goals. Battalion command teams will remain engaged with you on reacting to published changes or updates, further integrating you into their decision-making processes. You are also leaning forward with helpful information, enhancing your value to the brigade staff.

Step 3: Seize Teaching Opportunities for Long-Term Gain

Personnel turnover in a brigade is a fact of life. A dependable command team or seasoned investigating officer (IO) who is in your brigade today will move for a permanent change of station or be reassigned to division staff by tomorrow. Develop a training plan to decrease the learning curve of incoming commanders, resulting in swifter and more accurate processing of administrative investigations and command teams that anticipate problems and respond more effectively to them.

Conduct In-Depth IO Training: You and your command teams are going to go back, time and again, to a select handful of talented officers in the brigade to serve as IOs. This select group will inevitably suffer “IO fatigue,” as constant receipt of IO appointment orders diminishes their motivation and quality of work. As you battle IO fatigue, you will also find yourself becoming a broken record, spinning up new junior officers on how to conduct administrative investigations. Avoid this predicament by contacting the brigade and battalion XOs to organize training opportunities for new lieutenants, even company grade staff officers, on conducting administrative investigations on a wide range of topics ranging from misconduct, loss of sensitive items, and line of duty determinations to FLIPLs. Your in-depth training aims at engaging future IOs in critical thinking and understanding the nuances of investigation procedures. Provide them with digital packets containing templates and fact sheets for future reference. Your training outreach program will grow a stable crop of junior officers to serve as competent IOs in the brigade. Training early will result in better quality investigation packets later, smoothing processing for your legal team and for your commanders to take action on in the future.

Provide Enhanced New Company Commander/First Sergeant Course for Brigade: Get on the S3 training calendar or reach out directly to battalion staff to offer an in-depth new commander and first sergeant course that delves into the nuances of military justice and administrative actions specific to their footprint. You will still cover the typical investigations process, unit fundraising/Soldier and Family Readiness Group issues, but you will also provide tips on using and interacting with the local CID command as well as how to engage with local off-post law enforcement. Focus on particular law enforcement agencies, particular officers or investigations with the agencies, and occasions on which the company commanders and first sergeants may or must call these individuals. At the end of the training, company commanders and first sergeants should be comfortable with search and seizure requirements and know what is available to them via local law enforcement, such as using drug suppression teams and gaining access to privatized military quarters. A more in-depth course will cause you and the new command teams to think together regarding who should be the first to know and what initial steps to take when things go wrong both on- and off-post. Your training arms new command teams with better information and problem-solving skills to avoid potential pitfalls that can keep you and your senior commanders up at night.

Do not forget, creating products for any of the training initiatives discussed above will be easy because, as you guessed it, you have a continuity book already produced that will cover a lot of the groundwork for you.

Conclusion

The BJA life runs on a hard road with constant churn and never-ending fires to extinguish. Despite the high operational tempo, it is imperative that you continue to work to extend your influence within your brigade and to improve your own foxhole. Using these tried and tested tips will endear you to your command teams and make you an indispensable asset to the brigade. Your job is hard enough as it is on this challenging road. Apply these tips now on your brigade journey as you navigate toward a successful and well-earned finish. TAL

 


MAJ Townsend was assigned as the Brigade Judge Advocate, 3d Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division from 2016-2018, with whom he completed a deployment in support of Operation Spartan Shield and a National Training Center rotation.

MAJ Birdsell was assigned as the Brigade Judge Advocate, 2d Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division from 2015-2017, with whom she completed a deployment in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel and a National Training Center rotation.



Notes

* This is a tongue in cheek reference to the ubiquitous internet “click-bait” ads that attempt to capitalize on an initial click bait ad, e.g. “Lose 20 pounds in three days with this one weird trick!” that has gone viral. Additional thanks to Major Hans Zeller for contributing a tip from his brigade experience for us to share.

1. Remember, you are not using processing times on slides to catch battalions off-guard at command and staff. Be sure you are informing battalion command teams in advance of the big show to address delinquencies as needed. You endear yourself to that particular battalion command team when you are seeking them out with the “bad news” before it is published to the brigade staff and being able to explain delinquencies as needed when briefing to the staff. Everyone becomes more invested in your product and you will maintain communication, especially with the occasional mysterious battalion commander that is located far from you or just does not like to share with you or the brigade commander.

2. The continuity book will be greatly appreciated by your brigade executive officer (XO) and adjutant, especially as you confront various issues in the realm of fundraising and military ball planning. You will be taken more seriously in times of stress or command transition as you advise and leave them with a product to consult for reference.

3. The update consists of a brief email with attachments and simple summaries of respective changes or updates that will impact the command teams. Your emails are sent to battalion command teams (battalion commander, command sergeant major, and XO), cc’ing brigade commander, command sergeant major, and XO. Targeting battalion command teams allows you to engage with battalion commands, especially the XOs, who will be updating company command teams on a constant basis. It also gives your battalion commanders the ability to get first crack at questions concerning the update, so they have flexibility to decide on communicating important changes to their companies/batteries/troops themselves or have you do it for them (which you should offer to do).


Part II: How to Remain a Hit with Your Brigade Command and Staff

 

As a brigade judge advocate (BJA), you are operating in a dynamic environment at a break-neck pace. Your team is working hard to close out a never-ending list of administrative and military justice actions while participating in operational and training requirements for the brigade. As you operate in this frenetic environment, what do you need to do to remain fully integrated with staff to sustain mission success for the remainder of your tour? The answers are in three easy steps:

Step 1: Leverage Command and Staff Slides to Enable Command Teams to See Themselves

Your command and staff slides are one of the primary tools to communicate your section’s efforts to the brigade staff. You must tailor specific information to meet your brigade commander’s requirements in a standard format usually established by the brigade S1 or executive officer (XO). Adjust your slides to provide a detailed account of actions’ processing times to increase productivity and force closer coordination with battalion command teams.

From article 15s and administrative separations to financial liability investigations of property loss (FLIPLs) and administrative investigations, document how many days these actions remain in-progress for completion. Use color schemes to track actions that are on time, close to overdue, or long overdue. The brigade commander is like an aggressive chief executive officer (CEO) and battalions are project teams competing for the CEO’s favor at the next product pitch. Documenting processing timelines allows the battalions to see themselves alongside their peers in closing out legal actions. Command teams will want to post good numbers, and you will become more involved in getting them to improve processing times as needed.1 This tweak also aims to limit the dreaded “it’s with legal” excuse the battalions will note in their S1 slides or shout out with confidence during the brief. Fair warning: this requires your legal team to be on top of its game. You are committing battalions to firm processing times, and your team must be equally timely in its own processing of actions that are exposed for all to see. By tweaking your slides with processing timelines, your brigade commander, your XO, and your hard-charging brigade command sergeant major will appreciate your attention to detail and effort in keeping actions moving along. Note: never surprise a section by briefing they’re tardy on an investigation without warning them first. They’ll hate you for life.

Step 2: The Buck Does Not Stop with Your Command and Staff Slides—Build These Additional Products to Stay Connected to Decision-Makers

Command and staff slides are not the only products you need in your kit bag for long-term success in the brigade. The following three products promote keeping you seen and heard, enhancing your value as an advisor:

Build a Working Continuity/Legacy Book for You and Your Brigade Commander: The continuity book seems to have lost its luster in recent years thanks to shared drives and DVD storage devices. However, there is nothing more effective than a bona fide continuity book for the brigade legal section and the brigade commander. The continuity book will be a great introductory tool for when you and the brigade commander arriving on station at the same time. The typical incoming commander, new to brigade command, wants to know the limits of their command authority on a variety of legal and operational issues, and you will have laid the ground work for getting them comfortable with how to operate under various constraints with a continuity book.2

Your continuity book should, at a minimum, consist of tabbed sections covering: division and brigade policy letters, specifically highlighting areas of misconduct withheld to certain command levels and what can or cannot be delegated down; samples of brigade commander action requests and transmittal memoranda; the local installation military justice regulation highlighting key areas for the brigade commander to know, including any prohibited-conduct regulations or policies issued by higher headquarters; Army Regulation 15-6 investigation/FLIPL/line of duty investigation fact sheets; law enforcement/Criminal Investigation Command (CID) investigation criteria that require either military police or CID involvement; gift policies and fact sheets, especially policies that impact gifts for change of commands and hails and farewells; fundraising and military ball planning information, while also covering information related to informal fund set-up and a vetted standard operating procedure (SOP); include a vetted cup and flower fund SOP.

The continuity book also comes in handy if, in the course of your tour, you undergo a change of brigade commanders. Going over a well-organized binder addressing administrative processes or policy areas that your commander should know when engaging with higher headquarters makes a good first impression. From day one, you are laying the foundation for a trusted relationship with the incoming commander. Remember, your continuity book also becomes a great resource that can be revised into a battle book for deployed operations or field training exercises.

Monthly Email and/or In-Person Updates to Command Teams: Your command teams from brigade to company levels operate under a wide range of legal and regulatory frameworks. Lean forward with updates to policies, new guidance, or any type of change that will impact them, communicating the “so-what” aspects of the changes. Establish a rhythm by sending email updates on a monthly basis.3 You are uniquely situated to stay abreast of updates on a variety of legal matters. You have a legal technical chain pushing information to you from your higher echelon, Army Judge Advocate General publications, and other established sources. Also, consider weekly in-person updates at least to brigade and battalion commands. Battalion commanders can invite their company command teams as they see fit. You may be the only brigade staff officer to visit with battalion command teams, setting you apart from your brigade staff counterparts and forming strong connections with subordinate command teams and staff. These bonds will prove useful when battalion and company command teams must opine on difficult cases or initiate legal actions at their levels.

Publish a Weekly or Bi-Weekly Military Justice/Adverse Action Roll-Up: It is strongly recommended to include an attachment to your email updates entitled “[Insert Your Unit Here] Justice.” This separate attachment is a one-page “snapshot” of military justice and administrative actions across the brigade. Consider a section reflecting article 15s (no personally identifiable information, just statistics and results), the number of administrative separations, general officer memoranda of reprimand, and other military justice and administrative actions. Identify any trends, like prevalence of alcohol in the commission of certain offenses or an uptick in adverse actions coming from one unit or barracks. The command team can use this roll-up as another tool to distribute to their company/troop/battery levels to show that Soldiers are held accountable for their actions, dispel the infamous “barracks lawyer” from spreading false or misunderstood information on punitive actions, and allow subordinate commanders to practice preventive law related to the identified trends.

Done right, monthly updates and adverse action publications accomplish a few long-term goals. Battalion command teams will remain engaged with you on reacting to published changes or updates, further integrating you into their decision-making processes. You are also leaning forward with helpful information, enhancing your value to the brigade staff.

Step 3: Seize Teaching Opportunities for Long-Term Gain

Personnel turnover in a brigade is a fact of life. A dependable command team or seasoned investigating officer (IO) who is in your brigade today will move for a permanent change of station or be reassigned to division staff by tomorrow. Develop a training plan to decrease the learning curve of incoming commanders, resulting in swifter and more accurate processing of administrative investigations and command teams that anticipate problems and respond more effectively to them.

Conduct In-Depth IO Training: You and your command teams are going to go back, time and again, to a select handful of talented officers in the brigade to serve as IOs. This select group will inevitably suffer “IO fatigue,” as constant receipt of IO appointment orders diminishes their motivation and quality of work. As you battle IO fatigue, you will also find yourself becoming a broken record, spinning up new junior officers on how to conduct administrative investigations. Avoid this predicament by contacting the brigade and battalion XOs to organize training opportunities for new lieutenants, even company grade staff officers, on conducting administrative investigations on a wide range of topics ranging from misconduct, loss of sensitive items, and line of duty determinations to FLIPLs. Your in-depth training aims at engaging future IOs in critical thinking and understanding the nuances of investigation procedures. Provide them with digital packets containing templates and fact sheets for future reference. Your training outreach program will grow a stable crop of junior officers to serve as competent IOs in the brigade. Training early will result in better quality investigation packets later, smoothing processing for your legal team and for your commanders to take action on in the future.

Provide Enhanced New Company Commander/First Sergeant Course for Brigade: Get on the S3 training calendar or reach out directly to battalion staff to offer an in-depth new commander and first sergeant course that delves into the nuances of military justice and administrative actions specific to their footprint. You will still cover the typical investigations process, unit fundraising/Soldier and Family Readiness Group issues, but you will also provide tips on using and interacting with the local CID command as well as how to engage with local off-post law enforcement. Focus on particular law enforcement agencies, particular officers or investigations with the agencies, and occasions on which the company commanders and first sergeants may or must call these individuals. At the end of the training, company commanders and first sergeants should be comfortable with search and seizure requirements and know what is available to them via local law enforcement, such as using drug suppression teams and gaining access to privatized military quarters. A more in-depth course will cause you and the new command teams to think together regarding who should be the first to know and what initial steps to take when things go wrong both on- and off-post. Your training arms new command teams with better information and problem-solving skills to avoid potential pitfalls that can keep you and your senior commanders up at night.

Do not forget, creating products for any of the training initiatives discussed above will be easy because, as you guessed it, you have a continuity book already produced that will cover a lot of the groundwork for you.

Conclusion

The BJA life runs on a hard road with constant churn and never-ending fires to extinguish. Despite the high operational tempo, it is imperative that you continue to work to extend your influence within your brigade and to improve your own foxhole. Using these tried and tested tips will endear you to your command teams and make you an indispensable asset to the brigade. Your job is hard enough as it is on this challenging road. Apply these tips now on your brigade journey as you navigate toward a successful and well-earned finish. TAL

 


MAJ Townsend was assigned as the Brigade Judge Advocate, 3d Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division from 2016-2018, with whom he completed a deployment in support of Operation Spartan Shield and a National Training Center rotation.

MAJ Birdsell was assigned as the Brigade Judge Advocate, 2d Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division from 2015-2017, with whom she completed a deployment in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel and a National Training Center rotation.



Notes

* This is a tongue in cheek reference to the ubiquitous internet “click-bait” ads that attempt to capitalize on an initial click bait ad, e.g. “Lose 20 pounds in three days with this one weird trick!” that has gone viral. Additional thanks to Major Hans Zeller for contributing a tip from his brigade experience for us to share.

1. Remember, you are not using processing times on slides to catch battalions off-guard at command and staff. Be sure you are informing battalion command teams in advance of the big show to address delinquencies as needed. You endear yourself to that particular battalion command team when you are seeking them out with the “bad news” before it is published to the brigade staff and being able to explain delinquencies as needed when briefing to the staff. Everyone becomes more invested in your product and you will maintain communication, especially with the occasional mysterious battalion commander that is located far from you or just does not like to share with you or the brigade commander.

2. The continuity book will be greatly appreciated by your brigade executive officer (XO) and adjutant, especially as you confront various issues in the realm of fundraising and military ball planning. You will be taken more seriously in times of stress or command transition as you advise and leave them with a product to consult for reference.

3. The update consists of a brief email with attachments and simple summaries of respective changes or updates that will impact the command teams. Your emails are sent to battalion command teams (battalion commander, command sergeant major, and XO), cc’ing brigade commander, command sergeant major, and XO. Targeting battalion command teams allows you to engage with battalion commands, especially the XOs, who will be updating company command teams on a constant basis. It also gives your battalion commanders the ability to get first crack at questions concerning the update, so they have flexibility to decide on communicating important changes to their companies/batteries/troops themselves or have you do it for them (which you should offer to do).