War on Terrorism

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Face of Defense: Judge Exchanges Gavel for Gun to Serve in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

March 24, 2009 - Army Reserve Lt. Col. Jeff Wallace has traded his judge's gavel for a 9 mm pistol to take on his first deployment here. In Iraq, Wallace is the command judge advocate for the 304th Sustainment Brigade. As a civilian, he serves as a circuit court judge for the state of Oregon.

"My role as the brigade judge advocate is to provide the brigade commander and subordinate commanders with timely and accurate legal advice so that they can make an informed decision," said Wallace, who has served for more than 30 years with the Oregon Army National Guard and Army Reserve.

As a judge, he sits on all types of cases ranging from traffic violations to murder trials.

"My role as a judge is to listen to all the evidence and then make a decision based upon the law," said Wallace, 59, who is due to retire at the end of this deployment.

"It's a different role for me [in Iraq] than when I am an Oregon judge. Here, I have a client, the commander, and the government."

In addition to his duties as brigade judge advocate, Wallace also is the deputy staff judge advocate at the consolidated legal center here. He assists the 3rd Sustainment Command staff judge advocate in supervising the other JAGs and paralegals.

"We handle all types of legal matters at the legal center, everything from military justice, administrative law and claims, to legal assistance and trial defense," Wallace said. "You might consider it a one-stop legal center."

Wallace has served as a state court trial judge in Oregon since 1993, when he was first elected to the position.

"My judicial district is located in rural northeastern Oregon, near the Columbia River," Wallace said. "We actually have two other judges in my judicial district who are also JAGs with the Oregon Army National Guard. One of them was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006, and another, who just retired as a judge, is currently serving on active duty with the Oregon Army National Guard. We have quite a tradition of service."

When he was first told of his deployment last April, Wallace looked at it as an opportunity to "pay back" his country for all of the benefits and training he had received over the course of his 30-year career.

"I had never been deployed before and thought that this would be an opportunity to end my military career on a high note," Wallace said. "I can always go back to being a judge, but I would never again have the chance to serve in a combat theater. It was an opportunity that would only come once for me."

(From a 3rd Sustainment Command news release.)

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