JAG Journal, Day 1: Sharing knowledge with our counterparts in Tanzania

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Peter Tunis, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa judge advocate general, right, converses with a Tanzanian Peoples’ Defense Force legal officer during the Military Law Symposium held at the Peacekeeping Training Center. Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa courtesy photo)

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – Two members of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa legal staff and one U.S. Army Africa legal staff member recently attended the Military Law Symposium at the Peacekeeping Training Center here as part of a traveling contact team.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Deegan and U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Peter Tunis, CJTF-HOA judge advocate generals, and U.S. Army Capt. Daniel Sciapli, USARAF judge advocate general, went to Dar es Salaam for an exchange of legal practices with the Tanzanian Peoples’ Defense Force.

The team’s visit, which had been requested by the Tanzanian military, informed Tanzanian legal officers and aviation officers of U.S. military law, legal best practices, and the role Judge Advocate General Corps Officers play in advising military commanders on operational law and legal issues. The event highlighted discussions on investigations, introduction to operational law and introduction to military justice.

When the team stepped off of the plane into the humid, 88-degree heat, they had some concerns and anxieties normally associated with visiting a country for the first time. How would they be received? Would their instruction be on point with what the Tanzanian military was looking for? Would there be language barrier issues? Most Tanzanians speak English as a third language, with tribal languages and Swahili as their first and second.

Here’s a day-by-day recap of the engagement between the two groups of military lawyers …

Day 1: How to Train and Use a JAG

On the morning drive through the buzzing metropolis, each city block was packed with thousands of Tanzanians conducting their morning commute on foot, bicycles, and in various rickshaws, cars, and ornately-detailed minibuses.

When they arrived at the Peacekeeping Training Center, the team received a warm welcome from the TPDF. Tanzanian Lt. Col. Mbindi, his supporting staff, and the TPDF judge advocates in attendance quickly put one of the Americans’ main concerns to rest―they all spoke English. After a formal ceremony that included a speech from the installation’s commanding officer, everyone gave a personal introduction.

The team’s introductions included not just their areas of legal experience, but also mentioned their families. The Tanzanians introduced themselves, and every married man in the TPDF made a point to say, “I love my wife very much.”

“Having been away from my wife for the better part of six months, the TPDF’s introductions were very endearing. They triggered a response in my internal dialogue that was pushing me to express ‘I love my wife, too!’” said Tunis.

Tunis gave the first block of instruction, which discussed examples of the U.S. process for training and educating judge advocates. For a U.S. Marine Corps JAG officer, this eight-year process includes getting a bachelor’s degree followed by a law degree, taking a bar exam, and graduating Officer Candidate School, The Basic School, and Naval Justice School.

The Tanzanian model for the initial training of a judge advocate involves fewer steps. An individual who wants to practice law can go directly to law school upon finishing primary school, which is the Tanzanian equivalent of a U.S. high school.

Deegan then provided instruction on how U.S. commanders can use JAGs―and not only in their decision-making process on legal matters.

“JAGs should be used as military attorneys, but that doesn’t mean they can’t road march, learn to operate an armored vehicle, fire heavy weapon systems or participate in battle drills or exercises,” Deegan said.

He stressed that JAGs do not merely provide legal opinions.

“Training has taught JAGs not just the laws and statutes, but how to systematically approach problem solving,” said Deegan.

Stay tuned for Day 2 later this week …

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