Faerber ’06: Leading an Unpredictable JAG Life in Japan
As a judge advocate and officer in charge of the Legal Service Support Section (LSSS) at an American Military base in Okinawa, Japan, Pete Faerber ’06 said the best description of his day-to-day routine is that it’s unpredictable.
“There isn't a normal day. It isn't uncommon to go from running a physical fitness test in the early morning straight into personnel meetings. Court proceedings and then legal training of some sort might finish off a typical day,” he said. “At any given time from 06:30 to 20:00 I'm as likely to be reviewing a court-martial for legal sufficiency as I am to be talking to a client about family or international law.”
Faerber has been at the base in Japan for more than two years as a Reservist in the Marine Corps. Originally from Delaware, Ohio, he is a long way from home on the tropical pacific island.
“Okinawa is very interesting and has a lot to offer,” he said. “Driving on the left side of the road took a little getting used to, and the traffic is pretty crazy. The time change makes it hard to keep in touch with people; it’s 13 or 14 hours difference depending on whether the States are on Daylight Saving Time.”
Faerber received his bachelor’s degree in history and German from Ohio Wesleyan University. He spent about 10 years on active duty as an attack helicopter pilot and had reached the rank of Major before switching to the Reserves while attending the Moritz College of Law.
“I was serving as a pilot and realized that although I loved flying, it wasn't going to be very useful to me once I left the military,” Faerber said.
During his time in the Marine Corps, he spent years helping subordinates deal with the after-effects of bad credit and loans.
“These loans, usually made to junior Marines fresh out of high school, were almost always predatory and led to young Marines getting in trouble as their finances spun out of control,” he said. “I thought that by going to law school I could learn a new profession and at the same time help to get some payback against the predatory lenders on behalf of the young Marines who'd fallen victim to their loans.”
The LSSS is comprised of 12 lawyers, 30 paralegals, and 10 tax specialists and provides the Marine Corps and the Navy with all the prosecution and defense services for courts-martial in Okinawa. It also conducts “Article 32” investigations and provides legal advice on criminal matters to commanders.
“Our cases range from manslaughter, fraud, and assault, to things like narcotics trafficking and auto theft,” he said. “We also provide all of our branches (Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Army) with a Legal Assistance Office, in order to help them deal with noncriminal matters. This office assists with things like immigration, international child kidnapping, separation and divorce advice, wills, power of attorney, really everything that is not inherently related to criminal law.”
Although he does not speak Japanese, Faerber has been fortunate enough to not have too much trouble with the language barrier.
“I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't speak much Japanese at all,” he said. “I'm usually pretty good with languages, but Japanese stumped me. I haven't had the need to learn because my work is on base as is my housing. The American presence on Okinawa is very strong, which means that most places are very accommodating to us. I've been pretty surprised to see how far you can get with a smile and polite gesturing.”