Armed with his degree from The John Marshall Law School, Michael O’Brien ’05 is practicing law in a rather unique place: Iraq. He was deployed in November 2010 to Victory Base Complex north of Baghdad and is working as an advisor to an aspect of a Special Forces unit. O’Brien enlisted in the military after completing his law degree in 2008 and is a captain in the Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps. “The JAG Corps starts all of us as prosecutors for our first assignment,” he says. “Since I had been working for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for over half of law school I thought that it would be a natural fit.”
O’Brien’s home base is Edwards Air Force Base in California and, while he worked there, was the deputy staff judge advocate for the 95th Air Base Wing.
“The work we do in an Air Force legal office ranges from giving individual airmen legal advice on personal matters, like divorce or landlord-tenant law, to advising the commanders on disciplinary matters. We are also the ones who prosecute all courts-martial that occur on base.”
A management major at North Central College, O’Brien says joining the military was something he always had in mind through school. “Then when I was in law school I found out about the opportunities that the JAG Corps provided and loved the idea. My thought was, ‘I get to be a lawyer AND serve my country? Jackpot!’”
Life on the base is pretty good, O’Brien reports, with free time used for working out, sleeping, watching movies and television and surfing the Internet. Victory Base Complex is composed of several smaller bases, which surround the Baghdad International Airport. Occasionally, he’ll travel to the International Zone to go to court and meet with Iraqi judges and other court personnel. Most people on the base live in air-conditioned housing units that are 15-by-15 foot rooms. “We’re no longer in a setup in Iraq where people are in tents,” he says.
He also experienced Christmas away from home. “Lots of folks out here try to do fun things for the holidays, like some organized sporting events and a 5K fun run,” he says. “But for the most part it was just another day out here in Iraq.”
O’Brien may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.