Four graduating Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law students have been accepted into the nation’s legal branch of the military – an unprecedented number for the Indianapolis law school.
The Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps consists of highly selective law programs in every branch of the United States armed forces, including the U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps.
In a typical year, one IU McKinney law student might apply and be accepted to one of the five military legal programs, the law school told Indiana Lawyer. This year, third-year law students Jessica Ayer, Haley Roach, Eric Trudrung and Garrett Welch will be commissioned as officers with the JAG Corps this spring.
“It is unusual,” said IU McKinney adjunct professor Anthony Green. “Four is a big number.”
Green, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and experienced JAG lawyer, noted the application and interviewing process for the JAG Corps is extensive.
“I’ve met with lots of students to lay out the route for applying to the JAG Corps, but nothing is ever guaranteed,” Green said in a statement. “It’s hard to point to any single factor among applicants, other than the determination to be more competitive, and the commitment to serve something bigger than themselves.”
Students from the IU McKinney Class of 2019 who were accepted into the various JAG programs will split across three different branches, one going to the Coast Guard, one to the Army and two to the Air Force.
Ayer applied and was accepted to four JAG programs, including the Coast Guard, Army, Air Force and Navy. She ultimately chose the first option, which was decided upon, in part, after she completed an internship last summer with the Coast Guard JAG.
After commissioning, Ayer will attend a five-week officer training course in New London, Connecticut, followed by a 10-week Basic Lawyer Class at the Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island, before beginning a first assignment of four years of active duty.
Trudrung will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force in May, following his participation in the Air Force Army Reserve Officer Training program in Bloomington during his final year at IU McKinney.
“From what I understand of the process, the Air Force JAG Corps considers experience as one factor in selecting candidates,” Trudrung says. “IU McKinney really sets you up to learn as much as you can outside the law school building.”
As he studies for the bar exam, Trudrung will be on inactive “ready reserve” and then will begin active duty later this year.
Also accepted to the Air Force JAG program is Welch, who gained experience assisting JAG lawyers during an internship at the Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico early in his law school career.
Upon graduation, Welch will attend the nine-week Commissioned Officer Training program to learn Air Force leadership in 2020 before his four-year active duty commitment begins.
“Serving in the JAG Corps is a dream job for me,” he said. “I’ve been on this track since my first year and am very excited about the opportunity.”
Roach became a commissioned officer after completing the ROTC program during her undergraduate schooling but deferred her service to attend law school at IU McKinney.
Last summer, Roach worked with the JAG Corps offices at Fort Stewart, Georgia, where she assisted defense attorneys. That experience, she says, likely contributed to her acceptance into the U.S. Army JAG Corps.
Roach does not yet know where she will be sent upon graduation and taking the bar exam, but she says she is “keeping an open mind.”
The Indianapolis law school noted that while it is not unusual for an IU McKinney student to be accepted into a JAG Corps program each year, four student acceptances from one graduating class is unusual.
Other Indiana law schools have also seen numbers of students accepted into JAG programs this year, including six Notre Dame Law School students who will serve in the Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy law programs.