Specific training prepares legal Airmen for deployment success

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs
For four days prior to attending the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course, Airmen in the Air Force's legal career field receive training specialized for their upcoming deployments.

That training, known as the Judge Advocate Functional ACST Course, combines both classroom and field training and in 2008 trained more than 200 Airmen from the JA career field.

Tech. Sgt. Keith Vershay, NCO in charge of the USAF EC legal office, and an instructor in the course, said there are "two separate and distinct portions" of training.

"First, there is the classroom portion where students are taught JA and paralegal-specific training based on the mission they are headed to," Sergeant Vershay said. "Secondly, there's the field portion that focuses on weapons, tactics and military operations in urban terrain-type training leading up to the rules of engagement/rules on the use of force (ROE/RUF) training."

In classroom training, JAG and paralegal students learn general and theater-specific operations law subject matter that prepares them for their specific roles during their deployments, said Capt. Paolino Caliendo, USAF EC Staff Judge Advocate and course director for the JA training.

"This theater-specific training they receive includes everything from legal advocacy and advisory skills concerning nuances of deployed law to specialized job functions such as detainee operations," Captain Caliendo said.

Also in the classroom training, Captain Caliendo said, students receive Islamic cultural training and Army, Navy and counter-insurgency doctrine concepts.

"The course focuses on subject-matter students will be dealing with throughout their deployment," Captain Caliendo said. "For example, our last class (in October) consisted of students deploying to Task Force 134 in Iraq. They received specific training on the various positions and functions JAGs and paralegals perform in the various offices within TF 134."

TF 134 is the task force charged with detainee command and control, ensuring due process and assisting Iraq in rebuilding its judicial, correctional and law enforcement system. To assist the JA students deploying to the task force, they held secure video teleconferences with JA Airmen deployed to Iraq.

"This allowed the students to interact and exchange freely some sensitive, substantive information with the Airmen in theater with whom they will be working with or replacing," Captain Caliendo said.

In the field training, or ROE/RUF component of the course, Sergeant Vershay said they teach supplementary contingency skills training using a "crawl, walk, run" approach.

"We can't expect students to show up on day one and go through combat training scenarios without the basic knowledge of weapons manipulation, tactics, or other training that is needed in a tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving environment," Sergeant Vershay said. "That is what our field training highlights -- a hands-on familiarization with combat skills concepts."

The ROE/RUF component, Captain Caliendo said, combines a lecture on the law of self defense and its application in the deployed environment, wound ballistics and body trauma, and the psychological and physiological reactions of people under high-stress tactical environments and combat situations.

"We teach this through practical exercises such as using small arms training simulators with video-based threat recognition and judgment software," Captain Caliendo said. "We also use defensive tactics, advanced reflexive training, and force-on-force training using non-lethal dye-marking ammunition fired safely from modified service weapons to help reinforce what these students learned in the classroom."

Captain Caliendo said JA students "overwhelmingly indicate" appreciation for the training in course critiques.

"Specifically, they say the tactical training they receive, which we train in order to prepare them for the ROE/RUF component of the course, provides them with a good foundation from which to build their core ACST training upon," Captain Caliendo said. "Additionally, the students consider the training 'eye opening,' and pass on their experiences to other students in the core-ACST course to help those students better understand use of force concepts as they apply their training in the field."

The Air Force legal career field has been holding training at the USAF EC for more than 4 years, but has evolved significantly in the last year, Captain Caliendo said. It will, he said, continue to change, as the mission does, in order to ensure JAs and paralegals are prepared for success.