Caoilte Joy í05: Not Working a Typical 9-to-5
As an Army JAG working in the 82nd Airborne Division’s Ready Brigade, Caoilte Joy ’05 has to be prepared to be deployed anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. So when her brigade received no-notice deployment orders to go to Kuwait and then Iraq on Dec. 27, 2006, she had only a little more than a week to prepare before taking the last flight out on Jan. 5, 2007.
“All of us have our bags packed at home for things like this,” she said. “I asked to get assigned to the 82nd, so it was just a matter of when I would go. Many of our troops are on their third or fourth tour, so in a way it was like it’s about time.”
Now in the 13th month of a 15-month deployment, Caoilte (pronounced “kil-tee”) hopes to be stateside by April. She is stationed at Camp Taji in Iraq, about a 10-minute Blackhawk helicopter ride north of Baghdad. Although she often travels to dangerous areas in her line of work, she is quick to point out that she lives in relative luxury at Camp Taji.
“My experience here doesn’t begin to compare with what my guys live and work in every day,” she said. “I live a relatively lush life here at Camp Taji – we have flushing toilets and good food and all that.”
As a freshman undergraduate philosophy major at Kent State University, Caoilte joined the ROTC not knowing what to expect. As it turned out, she really enjoyed herself and decided that the Army was a good fit.
“It was something completely different from anything I had done before,” she said. “It was actually fun – walking around the woods at night with a compass sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?”
Caoilte decided to attend law school because she felt that being a JAG would be both interesting and challenging. While attending Moritz, she particularly enjoyed participating in the Prosecution and Criminal Defense Practicums, which she particularly enjoyed.
“I also enjoyed Professor Shipman’s classes,” she said. “He was completely right when he told us not to just focus on the law, but on the common sense measures of our clients’ situations. I’ve found that often times when you only advise a client on the law per se, it doesn’t do much good. You need to look at the secondary and tertiary effects of their actions legally speaking and otherwise.”
Since arriving in Iraq, Caoilte has dealt with many interesting legal issues.
“When one of our companies first moved into a new building in Baghdad, they found a big pile of fill dirt. Not knowing where it came from, they decided to spread it out and use it to fill pot holes,” she said. “Unfortunately, that dirt belonged to a local contractor who was going to use it for a project he had. Of course, they had no way of knowing that at the time, but we ended up having to reimburse the man for the dirt.”
This sort of transaction, known as Foreign Claims, is one of many of Caoilte’s duties as the trial counsel and operational law attorney. The Foreign Claims Act allows appointed JAGs to pay for damage done by the military in non-combat operations or out of negligence.
“So for instance, we have some Stryker vehicles attached to our Brigade. They are pretty large vehicles, so sometimes when they try to go through the narrow alleys and streets in Baghdad, they will accidentally clip a car and damage it,” she said. “That's when my head paralegal and I go out and pay for claims. Of course, these transactions occur someplace like a joint security station. I'm not just wandering the streets of Baghdad handing out cash.”
Along with handling Foreign Claims, Caoilte’s duties include acting as her unit’s prosecutor, advising commanders about military justice issues, advising paratroopers on the Rules of Engagement, dealing with detainee operations to ensure that UN Security Counsel Resolution guidelines are followed, providing legal reviews for funding requests for various projects (such as repairing and improving schools, cleaning up sewage, helping to improve local courthouses, and providing safety measures for local marketplaces), and offering non-military related legal assistance to soldiers.
“I’ve helped a handful of guys since we've been here,” she said. “It can range from anything to child custody issues of divorce or pending house foreclosure –sometimes it's as simple as the guys getting their cars towed while they're gone. Luckily we have the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which allows soldiers to ask for a stay in proceedings or reopening a closed case if their service in the military materially affects their ability to appear in court.”
With her many duties, perhaps it’s no surprise that when asked about what she does in her free time, Caoilte simply responded, “Well, we don’t get much free time around here – but that’s okay, I’m here to work.” Despite her hectic schedule, she really enjoys working in the military.
“There's always something new to keep me on my toes,” she said. “I get to see the effects of what I do – and what I’m doing really matters. Working with the paratroopers is really great, and I consider myself lucky that I don’t work solely with other lawyers.”