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JAG Corps announces law school programs

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Airmen interested in obtaining a law degree may have the opportunity to pursue their goal, on the Air Force's dime.

The Air Force is offering to send qualified applicants to law school, and pay for their education.

There are two programs available to go to law school as an Air Force officer
- FLEP and ELP: Applications for the Funded Legal Education Program and Excess Leave Program are being accepted now through March 1. Interested, energetic and competitive officers are encouraged to compete.

"Our Air Force missions are constantly changing, and commanders deserve to have access to legal advisors with a broad background of military experiences," said Lt. Col. Greg Friedland, 28th Bomb Wing's staff judge advocate. "The Funded Legal Education Program and Excess Leave Program ensure that we can continue to maintain a corps of officers whose military experience complements their legal training, providing commanders with the highest caliber of legal support."

Air Force JAGs do more than provide legal assistance, Colonel Friedland said. In addition to prosecuting and defending clients brought before courts-martial, JAG officers routinely participate in nearly every facet of the Air Force mission, including developing and acquiring weapons systems, ensuring availability of airspace and ranges where those systems are tested and operated, consulting with commanders about how those systems are employed in armed conflict, and assisting commanders in the day-to-day operation of military installations around the world.

"Every facet of every Air Force mission is bound by elements of the law," Colonel Friedland said. "We need JAGs with prior service in other career fields to help round out the JAG corps."

The FLEP is a paid legal studies program for active-duty Air Force commissioned officers. The FLEP is an assignment action, and participants receive full pay, allowances, and tuition. FLEP applicants must have between two and six years active duty service (enlisted or commissioned) and must be in the rank of captain or below as of the day they begin law school. The FLEP is subject to tuition limitations, and positions may be limited due to overall funding availability. The Air Force Institute of Technology establishes the tuition limit. The 2010 Academic Year was set at approximately $16,000 per year. However, this amount may change from year to year.

The ELP is an unpaid legal studies program for Air Force officers. ELP participants don't receive pay and allowances, but remain on active duty for retirement eligibility and benefits purposes. ELP applicants must have between two and 10 years of active duty service and must be a captain or below as of the first day of law school.

Applications for 2011 FLEP and ELP will be accepted from now through March 1. Both the FLEP and ELP programs require attendance at an American Bar Association accredited law school. Upon graduation and admission to practice law in the highest court of any state, territory of the United States, or a federal court, candidates are eligible for designation as judge advocates.

To be considered for FLEP or ELP, applicants must complete all application forms, applied (acceptance is not required at the time of application for FLEP/ELP) to at least one ABA accredited law school, received their Law School Admissions Test results, and completed a Staff Judge Advocate interview by Feb. 15.

Officers must provide a letter of conditional release from their current career field. Selection for both programs is competitive.

Applications meet a selection board in early March, and selections are made based on a review of the application package using a "whole person" concept.

Additional Information about the FLEP and ELP can be found in Air Force Instruction 51-101, Judge Advocate Accession Program, Chapters 2 and 3. Those interested can also call the base legal office at (605) 385-2329 for more details.