By Cliff Collins
Oregon State Bar members serving in the military have played key roles in recent and current events abroad. Although some members experienced disruption of their law practices when called up, all say they feel pride at serving their country during a crucial time of challenge.
Capt. Travis W. Hall, an Army judge advocate general currently stationed in Germany, helped devise the legal plan for post-regime occupation of Iraq, implementing guidance on what was to become the Coalition Provisional Authority. A linguist trained by the Army to speak Arabic, he was deployed to Iraq in April 2003, just after the collapse of the former regime.
Hall’s job in Baghdad was "to work with the Iraqi Ministry of Justice to help reconstruct the local courts and allow them to operate as a fully functional and independent justice system," he explains. From April to June 2003, he worked in a support role to federal civilian attorneys in "assessing the courts, generally, in Baghdad, and to help kick-start the criminal courts to some minimal functioning level." The next month, Hall was assigned to work full time at the provisional authority, and was delegated the responsibility of running the criminal courts in the city. His team consisted of a senior JAG and "enlisted soldiers to help provide security and convoy us around Baghdad." Hall remained in Baghdad until last December.
Hall joined the Army in January 1991, on the day bombs began falling over Baghdad in the first Persian Gulf War. After 63 weeks of learning Arabic in California, Hall was sent to military intelligence school in Arizona, then assigned to Germany. While there, he has twice been stationed in Kuwait. After four years of active duty, Hall left the service and entered law school at Lewis & Clark, where he graduated in 1998. He then clerked for Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge William J. Keys. The lessons he learned working under Keys proved invaluable for Hall’s later work, for he then rejoined the Army and entered its JAG Corps.
"I decided to practice as a judge advocate in the Army because the military is famous for giving its people as much responsibility as they can handle, as well as providing a positive environment to develop one’s professional skills," Hall says. His first assignment was in Stuttgart, Germany, where he practiced administrative law and criminal law as the principal prosecutor for Army forces in southern Germany. His next stint was in Heidelberg as an operational and international law attorney for the Fifth Corps headquarters. His role was "to learn as much as I could about occupational law as well as lessons learned from the past prolonged U.S. military occupation," he says. "That was the period of 1945-1949 in Japan and Germany."
Hall says he was considering entering private practice just before September 2001, "but I decided to stay on active duty after 9/11 for three more years to serve our country in any way I could. At the time, I understood that my Arabic and legal background was rare in not only the military but in federal government, as well. I just did not have an idea on how I could help at the time."
When considering his Iraq service, Hall believes history will have to determine the degree of success there. "My experience in Iraq was a once-in-a-lifetime event," he says. "But I am very reluctant to say it was rewarding, because my feelings, like the situation itself, are very complex. That experience came at the cost of a lot of lives — American and Iraqi — and physical destruction, which unfortunately I witnessed first hand.
"Also, the fact that I was uninvited into the Baghdad legal system was never lost on me. Yet, I also talked to a lot of Iraqis who had loved ones killed or mutilated by the former regime," Hall says. "I was on a panel that held hearings on some of the ‘deck of card’ detainees to determine their eligibility for prisoner-of-war status. I read their records and talked to them in person. There is no doubt that the people of Iraq are much better off without them in power.
"In the coming decades, perhaps I will feel rewarded for being part of the process, if wounds heal and Iraq develops into a democratic government where religious freedom and human rights thrive."
Three Portland-area lawyers played a key role in protecting the two major ports in Kuwait where nearly all wartime materiel was brought into the Iraq theater: Capt. Kurt F. Hansen, a shareholder at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt; Cmdr. Samuel W. Asbury, a Gresham lawyer in sole practice and Cmdr. Donald B. Masaoy III, who is in a two-person law firm in Gresham. Asbury and Masaoy in fact worked under Hansen. All three returned from Kuwait this spring.
Hansen commanded the Naval Coastal Warfare Task Group, which was responsible for the seaward and land security of the two ports used by U.S. forces to move approximately 90 percent of the military materiel used in Iraq. Following the invasion, Hansen’s unit also had responsibility for gas-oil platform security. Before that, he was part of the San Diego command staff that mobilized units to various ports for security during Operation Noble Eagle following 9/11.
He spent a total of two years being called up. At Schwabe Williamson, where his practice focuses on health care transactions, physician liability defense, business joint ventures and regulatory compliance, other lawyers covered for him while still maintaining their own practices.
"We missed him," says David F. Bartz Jr., the firm’s president. Schwabe Williamson has had other attorneys and one secretary called up over the past few years, and has received recognition from the Department of Defense as an employer that supports the Guard and Reserve in going above and beyond federal requirements for employees called up. "It seems like the right thing to do," Bartz says. "No one raised a question about it."
Hansen accepted a Navy ROTC scholarship in college, spent four years on active duty, and then served in the Reserve, which he never left even after his obligation ended. During the three months he spent in Kuwait, he says he didn’t feel under threat on a daily basis, but during transit between bases, everyone was required to carry a sidearm and a radio or cell phone. He took one trip into Iraq, where he observed resistance as well as "a lot of waves" from friendly Iraqis who welcomed his presence.
Gresham lawyer Sam Asbury was on active duty during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm, and returned to that region when he served in the Navy Reserve in Kuwait last year into early this year. He was concerned about leaving his practice, where he had spent seven years building an immigration law specialty. "I did lose some clients along the way, but I was pleasantly surprised that after I got back, it wasn’t like I was sitting and waiting for the phone to ring. It was ringing."
He worked out an arrangement with Gresham lawyer Andrew P. Colvin to take over his files. They worked out a deal in which Asbury’s portion of paying overhead cost came from the proceeds from his files. Portland lawyer Michael T. Purcell volunteered to "take five trials from me at no cost, and that was just amazing." In addition, Asbury’s landlord, longtime OSB member Donald K. Robertson, waived Asbury’s office rent for a year. Asbury renewed his Yellow Pages ad and kept up with files via e-mail while he was overseas. Despite all these measures, he knows he lost business while away. "The worst part is, there is no way to measure it," he says. "The lost opportunity of all the referrals I could have gotten. It set me back, I will never know for how much."
When his orders came, "It was a personal call to arms. I kind of expected it. I was hoping not, but when it comes, it comes," Asbury says. "I spent many, many hours in the three or four months I had (before I had to leave); there was a lot to do to prepare." Asbury’s wife is a full-time homemaker, raising two small children.
A California native, Asbury took a Navy ROTC scholarship at Oregon State University. He graduated with honors and served his four-year active duty obligation. While aboard the USS Nimitz in the Persian Gulf War, he was accepted to Gonzaga University School of Law, and joined the Reserve while in law school. However, he did not want to be in the JAG Corps. "I remained a warfare officer," he says. "I did not switch over to being an attorney." He remained in the Reserve even after his commitment ended.
"It was for personal accomplishment. I’m really goal-oriented. Working for the next rank ... is important to me." His role in Kuwait was as staff plans and policy officer for the group of units responsible for port security and harbor defense. In that capacity, he was able to apply concepts he had learned while earning a diploma from the Naval War College. While deployed, he worked on his master’s degree in strategic studies from the Army War College.
The fact that he had been to the Persian Gulf before while on active duty and in several other countries in the Reserve did not prevent his being called up last year to go back. The specialized mission of his unit "dictated that our unit go over there," he says. "I accepted that risk."
Don Masaoy, who has a general law practice, got his degree from Seattle University through the Navy ROTC program. When he finished active duty, he was accepted by Willamette University’s law school, but still had a Reserve commitment. He remained in the Reserve because, he explains, being an officer in the Reserve is satisfying: You have supervision over people who are generally older, mature and "want to be there." Over a 10-year period, his unit went to Korea, Australia, Kenya, Egypt and Kuwait.
Plus, serving in a unit with a specialized function means "we always were performing a mission," he says. "It’s always been personally rewarding to be in that kind of unit." In Kuwait, Masaoy was seaward security officer charged with tactical control over all waterside aspects.
He now has 17 years total military service and will be eligible for retirement at 20 years, but also eligible for promotion at 21 years. He comes from a line of Navy men in his family, including his father, who retired as a career officer.
Of his being called up to go Kuwait, Masaoy says: "Obviously, it was a disruption. I knew that it was always a possibility." It was "difficult" for his wife and baby daughter, who was 4 months old at the time. However, he got another lawyer to cover his practice, and he received commander’s pay, "plus other allowances," the majority tax-free because of his being in a combat zone.
After his return this spring, Masaoy joined a different unit, which requires him to drill in Los Angeles. That unit’s mission is to "keep track of merchant shipping," and he thinks it is unlikely he or that unit will be called up.
J. Brian Jones, a captain in the Air Force, had no previous military experience until last year. Jones, a 2001 graduate of Stanford Law School, spent two years as an associate at Stoel Rives in the wealth management practice group. He left the firm after two years, joined the Air Force and received his commission as a JAG officer. Jones has an initial four-year commitment, with his first three at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.
Jones had a dual motivation for getting into the military and out of civilian law practice. He wanted "to find a career that was more personally rewarding, where I was interested in the work and could feel that I was contributing something to society and doing something important," he says. "Second, to get away from billable hours and find a job that was less time-intensive than working for a corporate law firm."
His duties at Kadena, one of the Air Force’s largest bases, are similar to a city’s general counsel office, he relates. The office is split into two sections: general law section and military justice, with a total of 11 active-duty attorneys, two civilian lawyers and 11 paralegals. His general law section provides free legal assistance to military personnel regarding issues such as consumer and family law, and Jones’ subsection, operations law, deals with "the law of armed conflict ... (including) providing regular training to Kadena airmen regarding treatment of prisoners of war, lawful targets of military operations," and related matters, he says. "The responsibility is great. I’ve already tried three courts-martial and have another one coming up soon."
On any given day, Jones will spend an hour with legal assistance clients, work on two or three legal reviews of Freedom of Information Act requests and permissible uses of government funds, and interview witnesses for an upcoming court-martial. "I really enjoy the work. Every day is interesting because there is so much variety of work," he says.
"Also, I find a personal satisfaction from serving our country in the military. We have a fantastic group of people over here at Kadena who are working extremely hard and making a lot of sacrifices for the benefit of our country and the world, and I am honored to work with them and do my part."
He says he doesn’t miss the billable hours of a civilian law firm, and a normal work week is Monday through Friday, 7:30 to 5 o’clock, including some time off to work out. "There are a lot of exceptions to that, though. For instance, about one week of every two months, I’m on call for the week, and may have to respond to emergency questions in the middle of the night, or even go down to the Japanese police station to sort out some issue." About once every three months he must spend a week of 12-hour shifts in a military exercise simulating wartime conditions. In addition, "I could, and probably will at some point, face a three- to four-month deployment," Jones says.
"Overall, I have been extremely happy about the change" in his career, he says. "There are certainly challenges to the military lifestyle, but so far it has been a very good experience, and I feel very happy about what I am doing."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cliff Collins is a Portland-area freelance writer and a frequent contributor to the Bulletin.
©2004 Cliff Collins