"During military operations in a contingency environment, the role of the JAG becomes very challenging because often the rules aren't the same," Hubbard said. "We have to determine whether or not the plan is in accordance with international law and our obligations under the host nation agreement. We also have to make sure it is in accordance with our own (rules of engagement)."
Besides providing input for the planning process, the legal office places heavy emphasis on laws of armed conflict principles. JAGs advise commanders when LOAC comes into question. According to Hubbard, many textbook examples of LOAC violations were seen during Operation Desert Storm when Iraqi forces parked military aircraft next to ancient monuments, used civilians as shields and committed a host of environmental crimes such as setting oil fields on fire.
"Compliance with LOAC is fundamental to conducting operations efficiently, effectively and with minimal adverse effects," Hubbard said. "We train all of our personnel so they understand what the law requires. Young troops ask, 'Why do we comply with LOAC if our enemies don't?' There's a good reason beside the fact that you can be prosecuted if there is a criminal violation under our Uniform Code of Military Justice.
"During Operation Desert Storm, we saw massive surrenders by the Iraqis when the ground campaign started. That's because they knew they would be treated well. If they were treated badly, as they were during the Iran-Iraq conflict, we likely wouldn't have seen the same level of surrender. Our own compliance with LOAC helped end the war sooner."
With all of the responsibility JAGs are handed, people might wonder what the reward is for being a military lawyer. According to those in the 325th FW legal office, it is a matter of personal desire coupled with the opportunity to serve in a unique position.
"As a military lawyer, you are given responsibility quickly," Hubbard said. New civilian attorneys, on the other hand, may spend most of their time doing research for other, more experienced attorneys.
"As a new lieutenant, I found myself in the courtroom immediately and I was dealing with a variety of issues," Hatch said. "As a civilian, it might be years before you see a courtroom and you can be limited to practicing law in your specialty."