By Rear Adm. Robert Nowakowski, Deputy Commander, Navy Recruiting Command
MILLINGTON, Tenn. — Since early March 2020, the entire planet has diligently and creatively collaborated to adapt and overcome the COVID-19 pandemic — a historic health crisis of the greatest magnitude the likes of which have not been seen in more than 100 years. Global cooperation on many levels has altered the ways people communicate, plan and lead on a daily basis. That collaboration has been felt locally at the Staff Judge Advocate office (SJA), at Navy Recruiting Command. Due to the rising demand for paralegal support needed in order to execute Recruiting Nation mission requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, it became priority one to leverage the strategic depth and operational capabilities of the Navy Reserve. The seamless integration and cooperation between active and Reserve Sailors has been incredibly successful.
“The mission of the Navy Reserve is to provide strategic depth and deliver operational capabilities to the Navy and Marine Corps team and Joint forces, in times of peace or war,” said Rear Adm. Robert Nowakowski, Deputy Commander, Navy Recruiting Command (CNRC). “As soon as the demand signal for Reserve support was triggered, our team quickly engaged with the Deputy Judge Advocate General for Reserve Affairs and Operations Team and, within weeks, received the necessary support from these elite Reserve Sailors.”
Legalman 1st Class Adam Schultz, acting lead chief petty officer for CNRC SJA, was the catalyst for working upfront with the Reserve Affairs and Operations team to pioneer and seamlessly integrate the Reserve Sailors as well as sustain and support them throughout the duration of their orders.
“I was nervous when I first heard we would be getting remote Reserve support from Arkansas, Texas, Washington and California,” said Schultz. “Primarily because telework was a new concept for me, especially remote telework, and at the time I had neither led, nor managed, anyone in that type of environment. Through CNRC’s ability to have Navy and Marine Corps Internet assets delivered to them, along with granting access to our file system, it was as if they were working right beside me. Their knowledge levels, enthusiasm and hunger for more was a breath of fresh air during the peak of a very challenging time. Their impact was truly immeasurable as it allowed me to dedicate time to the development of junior Sailors while still closing out a large volume of cases.”
Thousands of hours of support were provided by four enlisted Reserve Sailors starting in June 2020: Legalman 1st Class petty officers Gabriela Guerrero, Kenneth Connor, and Christina Oliver and Chief Legalman Shakira Fisher. Each provided superb support.
“Sustained Reserve support has been critical to the mission accomplishment of the Navy Recruiting Command Staff Judge Advocate’s office over the past year,” said Lt. Cmdr. Greg Young, Navy Recruiting Command Staff Judge Advocate. “And the type of support we’ve received is the best and most productive I have seen in my career. It takes careful coordination, but we’re consistently seeing Reservists start supporting remotely and, within a week or two, they become fully integrated members of the legs team, managing their own projects and portfolios of work. Without exaggerating, I’m not sure we could have gotten everything done without them.”
Serving as a legalman has afforded Fisher many opportunities to serve at a broad array of military commands. She said CNRC was by far one of the best commands she has worked for as a Reserve Sailor.
“I instantly felt like a part of the family,” said Fisher. “The level of knowledge, drive, and most importantly the respect the staff had was unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. I was included in every aspect of the office daily assignments and never felt left out. If you’re looking for challenge and another extension of family, I would tell anyone make sure you put CNRC on the list of commands you assist. A great opportunity.”
Connor and Guerrero felt the same way. They expressed that working with the CNRC legal team was a great experience, and provided some of the most rewarding, real time, fast-paced, adrenaline filled work they’ve ever done for the Navy. And the Reserve Sailor support to Recruiting Nation continues. In March 2021, Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Benson executed long-term orders to be the interim Staff Judge Advocate as Young and his family transition to civilian life, and the command awaits his permanent replacement later in the Summer 2021.
“Taking orders to support the active duty component has been the most rewarding aspect of being a Selected Reserve member,” said Benson. “Having served as the Staff Judge Advocate for Naval Special Warfare Center and Naval Special Warfare Command for the last two summers, respectively, I know how valuable it can be to provide continuity and balance during gapped billets, or when workload exceeds available manning. The opportunity to assist Commander, Navy Recruiting Command this year has been just as, if not more, rewarding than each of my past experiences. Reconnecting with my active duty teammates and providing legal support to leaders across the enterprise is why I took the oath of office to serve many years ago, and being a part of Navy Recruiting — a mission so integral and vital to our branch services’ health and success — is an absolute honor. I’m extremely proud to be able to step in when needed, and I’m grateful to remain a part of the Navy JAG community as a member of the Reserve.”
“The Navy Reserve Law Program is designed to provide a ready and trained force of dual professionals both in the law and at arms to maintain strategic depth for the Navy and the warfighter,” said Rear Adm. Les E. Reardanz, Deputy Judge Advocate General for Reserve Affairs & Operations Deputy Commander, Naval Legal Service Command.
“Wonderful opportunities like those from CNRC provide our Reserve law program professionals the chance to develop our strategic depth and train to the skills we need to mobilize in support of great power competition, while also providing real world support to the CNRC team,” said Reardanz. “It is truly a win-win situation for us all and the Navy team as a whole.”