If you are interested in pursuing a career as a JAG attorney or in military law, keep in mind that there is a navy base taking legal interns and externs right in your neighborhood. Earlier this year, officers in Naval Station Great Lakes’ Recruiting Command legal office graciously invited me on base to talk to me about military life and service, military lawyering, and why their legal externship is such a great opportunity. During my visit, I met with JAG attorneys, Lt. Jonathan Hawkins, Lt. Patrick Rigney, LCDR Parker Carlisle, several commanding officers, and the head of the legal services office.
When I visited the base, 2L, Liesl Muelhauser, was externing full-time for credit in the Recruiting Command legal office through Notre Dame’s Law in Chicago program and she accompanied me on my tour of the base.
Why Great Lakes Naval Station is a unique Navy base
Naval Station Great Lakes is the sole boot camp in the United States Navy. That means that 100% of those who are training to become enlisted in the Navy go through boot camp and graduate from training at this base. The very last exercise before graduating boot camp requires the recruits to spend about two days on a model ship where they work as a team to respond to fake disasters occurring on board to test their readiness for real disasters that may occur on a real ship.
Here we are touring the ship where recruits do their final exercises before becoming sailors.
While on my tour, I got the chance to tour that ship. I then got to see the capping ceremony where recruits officially get promoted to navy sailors, removing their “recruit” hats and replacing them with “navy” hats. It was incredibly moving and clearly meant a great deal to the recruits who were finally celebrating the end of difficult training.
After the capping ceremony, we attended the graduation, a formal military ceremony, which honors the new recruits and formally inducts them into the Navy. Below is a picture of the graduation. The ceremony is quite remarkable. Recruits perform a rifle show, there is a band, they march, and they announce their units. Each unit is holding a different state flag and each state is announced as they walk in. The auditorium is packed with the recruits’ families, who cheer when their state is announced. The top recruits get awards.
The Legal Services office at Great Lakes Naval Station
Afterwards, they took me to the Legal office and I got to see a Navy trial attorney graduate from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Commander, which is a tremendous honor and a very difficult rank to achieve. His wife, mother, and five children were in attendance for the formal ceremony and the entire legal office was there to congratulate him. It was a moving moment for someone who has worked very hard in his career.
Lt. Hawkins and Lt. Rigney graciously took time to talk to me about life in the military and Navy JAG. I was struck by how happy both of them were in their careers and how they genuinely loved coming to work every day. Everyone works as a collaborative team, family is valued, and the work is interesting.
Lt. Rigney said something very interesting, which is that only 1% of people are ever officers in the United States military. It is an honor to be in that elite group.
Externing at Great Lakes Naval Station
Externing at Great Lakes Naval Station through the Chicago program externship provides a great experience. 3L Liesl Muelhauser had an excellent experience there and during her externship, she researched numerous legal issues, edited a search and seizure regulation, assisted several investigations, provided invaluable litigation support to prosecutors on a court-martial, prepared pleadings and evidence for scores of administrative personnel hearings and adverse matters. She also helped out another department during a time of need and got to take every opportunity to learn from Navy Judge Advocates and paralegals. Beyond her legal work, she took part in all aspects of the office, including attendance at training, physical fitness, and military awards ceremonies.
Because Great Lakes Naval Station is the base where all enlisted recruits complete boot camp, necessarily several legal issues arise when recruits are unable to complete training. In such a situation, they need to be administratively separated from the military and JAG lawyers working at Great Lakes are the ones who ensure that these separations are conducted will full due process.
If you’re interested in externing at Great Lakes Naval Station through the Chicago program, interning there over the summer, or learning more about JAG or the Navy, reach out to me. I am happy to talk you and to direct you to Lt. Hawkins or Lt. Rigney, who are both happy to speak with you.