An Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) is a legal professional employed by the Air Force. Working as an Air Force JAG can provide access to a variety of interesting legal cases and opportunities to interact with numerous members of the Air Force, from base commanders to enlisted personnel. Many JAGs make this job a lifetime career, although others may transition into civilian work.
The JAG corps is a very important part of the military and the work of an Air Force JAG is quite different from the dramatized version sometimes found on television. While JAGs are involved in military trials as advocates and judges, most of their work actually takes place outside the courtroom. A typical Air Force base has a number of JAGs on staff and additional personnel can be called in to consult in special situations.
Typically, an Air Force JAG spends a great deal of time providing legal advice to base officials. This can include everything from consulting in cases of suspected misconduct to decide how to move forward to answering questions about environmental law. JAGs are familiar with civil and criminal law that applies to the military, as well as military law, and their expertise spans a number of legal issues, including topics such as labor law and landlord-tenant law.
In addition to assisting officials, a JAG also works with individual members of the Air Force to provide legal services. Members of the Air Force receive such services for free as part of their compensation package. JAGs can help personnel draft wills, negotiate with landlords, and navigate other legal situations that may arise. Providing legal services for free ensures that service members seek out legal assistance in a timely fashion without waiting because they are concerned about the cost. In this sense, the Air Force JAG acts as the personal attorney for any member of the Air Force who needs help with legal matters.
To become an Air Force JAG, it is necessary to complete law school. The Air Force recruits fully qualified lawyers and may also make arrangements to accept people who have not completed law school and pay for their legal education. JAGs need to meet the standards for Air Force recruitment, including passing a physical and exhibiting strong moral character. Rates of pay vary, depending on how long the JAG has been serving.
The position of Judge Advocate General is available to people in other branches of the armed forces as well. The Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines also maintain JAG corps to provide legal services to their members. The types of duties for JAGs in other branches of the service are similar to those of an Air Force JAG.