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JAG deployers receive in-depth training on Task Force 134, rule of law missions

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs
An unprecedented number of Airmen deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan from the Air Force Judge Advocate Corps are taking on roles to support "rule of law" missions in those theaters of operation.

Because of that effort, the JAG Corps developed a new course focusing on Task Force 134 - the task force charged with detainee command and control, ensuring due process and assisting Iraq rebuild its judicial, correctional and law enforcement system. Task Force 134 supports Multinational Forces - Iraq.

The Task Force 134 Course made its debut during the functional training of deploying JAG students attending the Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course here in late March.

"The course included training on the detention process and the Magistrate's Cell, the Combined Review and Release Board, the Joint Detention Review Committee, and the treatment of detainees, among other things," said Capt. Robert Jarman, legal advisor and contingency skills training instructor for the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center. "It also included a video teleconference with Task Force 134 attorneys and paralegals currently in the deployed environment."

Instructors from Air Force Judge Advocate General's School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., along with adjunct faculty from the Air Force Operations Law Division and Office of the Secretary of the Air Force traveled to Fort Dix to present the course.

"All of the instructors who taught at the Task Force 134 Course have deployed to Task Force 134 within the last two years," said Capt. Jim Annexstad, an instructor in the International and Operations Law Division, AFJAGS, who taught part of the course. "It's important the students are being taught by people who have been there."

Captain Annexstad deployed to Task Force 134 from February to June 2006, where he prepared and presented cases to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. He said this course is a great example of AFJAGS commitment to maintaining a faculty with current real-world expertise in on-going missions so they can assist other training centers like the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center. He also said the students who completed the course are better prepared for the tough mission ahead of them.

"The judge advocates and paralegals who completed the two-day training are ready to hit the ground running once they get to Iraq," Captain Annexstad said. "Task Force 134 will not have to take a step back when Airmen rotate in because these folks know what they are supposed to do when they show up for work. That means that individuals detained in Iraq will receive the due process they are entitled."

Capt. Cynthia Kearley, honors law clerk for the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, Bolling AFB, D.C., and a student in the Task Force 134 Course, said she will be working in support of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq on her upcoming deployment. She said the course, and ACST in general, was a great help in getting ready to do her deployed job.

"Performing the actual duties necessary to prosecute insurgents and terrorists is only part of the job for me on my deployment," Captain Kearley said. "On a broader scale, after having this course, I know the duties I perform and the manner in which I perform them will also serve as an example to the Iraqis and coalition partners of how America provides due process.

"I am not only a lawyer or an Air Force officer," Captain Kearley said. "I am also a representative of the United States. How others view me and those who deploy with me will color how they view America. Ensuring that they receive an accurate and positive view is as important as the individual task which I am performing."

Captain Kearley said she understands the rule of law is essential to the restoration of security and economic and political progress in Iraq as it would be anywhere else.

"Without the rule of law as an underpinning to any society, the fundamental rights and due process recognized by civilized society are at risk," Captain Kearley said. "It is essential to be prepared for this type of mission. Because the objectives of Task Force 134's mission represent only one type of rule of law mission, it is important that we receive training tailored to its requirements."

In addition to Captain Kearley's feedback, Captain Annexstad said they received "outstanding" feedback from the students who attended the course.

"Now the students who completed the training understand what they are going to be asked to do and how to do it," Captain Annexstad said. "This course also benefited the students because it took away the fear of the unknown. If we can teach them how to do their job and relieve their pre-deployment anxiety, we have accomplished our mission. I wish I had this course before I deployed to Task Force 134."

Captain Jarman said, like other classes given as part of ACST, they are always looking to improve and provide the most current information available so students are highly training and prepared for their deployments.

Over the past two years, we have partnered with the experts in the JAG community to provide a range of innovative programs," Captain Jarman said. "These include rules of engagement-rules of use of force tactical training, classified instruction, video teleconferences with JAG personnel in theater, classroom instruction and most recently, the Task Force 134 training for 40 personnel deploying to Iraq to work detention operations.

"The Task Force 134 training was provided for the first time ever as part of our ACST course," Captain Jarman said. "It was a great addition, as we are deploying more of our folks to support this very important mission in theater."

Captain Annexstad added, "Bottom line, these judge advocates and paralegals are better prepared deploy and accomplish this mission. It is one thing to fill taskings with bodies. It is another to provide them with the training to make a difference once they get in country. That is what we did with this course."