Name: Abdul G.
Hometown: Rockledge, FL
MOS: US Coast Guard Judge Advocate
Motto to live by: Defending those who defend us.
Reflection on the job:
One of the most memorable moments as a JAG in the Coast Guard occurred while serving with the Navy. Between 2010 and 2012, the Obama administration was (and still is) downsizing all of the armed forces. A lot of good sailors and Marines got caught in the wash. Commands got orders to separate members for any and all reasons, like PFT failures, out of rate, minor misconducts, one too many non-judicial punishments. It was bullshit.
I was selected to represent a sailor who was a submariner. A really good submariner. After years of service, he started to suffer debilitating migraine headaches while underway. As a result, he detached from submarine work and ended up on the USS Fort McHenry, known by many as the hardest working ship in the entire fleet. He hit the ground running, got qualified on everything and became such a top performer that he was recognized as Sailor of the Year.
I ended up meeting him because, to his surprise, he got sent to the AdSep (Administrative Separation) Board. To simplify, the Navy decided to separate him because he was billeted as a submariner, but working on a top water vessel. Basically, because he was medically unable to work underwater, he was classified as “out of rate,” and that was the excuse the Navy wanted to use to get rid of him.
I’ve never had so many witnesses shout, “This is bullshit” during a proceeding.
To me, this sailor was exactly who the Navy needed. Now I’ve tried several full-blown courts-martials, but his was probably the most stressful proceeding I’d ever had. He was truly the victim of the Navy’s—and this administration’s—shortsighted thinking.
The AdSep board was like something out of a movie. The line of individuals who wanted to testify to my sailor’s competency and value was unreal. The best engineer in the entire Navy drove down from D.C. to testify on his behalf, and provided a list of billets that he could fill at his command. Two Master Chiefs showed up. Several Senior Chiefs.
Even his Commanding Officer testified. Let me put that in perspective. The United States Navy asked my client’s CO to initiate separation proceedings against him, which he did, because orders are orders after all. But then, that same CO was the one who personally showed up at the board to provide the strongest reason why he should stay in the Navy.
I’ve never had so many witnesses shout “this is bullshit” during the proceeding.
The AdSep Board found “no basis” for separation. The best outcome possible. We’d won. The Command Master Chief from the USS Fort McHenry gave me an awesome challenge coin for the results. My sailor was speechless.
And he got to stay in the Navy. And it was an honor to defend his right to be there.