A Day in the Life of a Law Department Instructor at USAFA

 

The sun is rising behind me as I drive toward the Academy. The spires of the Cadet Chapel are visible from miles away and they soon come into focus, in stark contrast to the mountains behind them. I enter Fairchild Hall, home to DFL and the entire Dean of Faculty. I greet my fellow instructors and head back to my office to take a few minutes to sift through e-mails – one way in which my job is similar to that of just about every other JAG!

E-mails dealt with, I head up to the classroom to begin the absolute best part of my day, teaching. If I am a brand new instructor, I will teach three sections of DFL’s largest course, Law 220 - Law for Air Force Officers. Because Law 220 is a core course (taken by all cadets), DFL instructors have the opportunity to help shape every single graduate of USAFA. My core course sections will be comprised mainly of sophomores. The cadets are from every part of the U.S., several foreign countries, and represent every academic major offered at USAFA. They bring a vast array of experiences and opinions to our lively class discussions.

Today, our topic is Law and the Commander, and we discuss the administrative and non-judicial tools available to supervisors and commanders. Hopefully, the “visual aids” I’ve brought to class to represent each tool – actual tools that I pull out of a real toolbox – will help them remember and understand the continuum of actions of increasing severity they will soon utilize as commanders. Unlike many core courses, in Law 220, the cadets are able to make the connection between what they are learning in class and what they will be doing in a few short years in the operational Air Force. Perhaps the connection to “real life” that DFL instructors provide is the reason cadets consistently rate Law 220 as the number one ranked core course at the Academy. (On the other hand, the reason could be the fascinating “war stories” we tell about our experiences as prosecutors and defense counsel that cadets never grow tired of!)

If I am a more experienced instructor, in addition to teaching the core course, I will also teach an elective or a course required for Legal Studies majors. See the attached link for information on courses presently taught by DFL: http://www.usafa.edu/df/dfl/courses.cfm. During my assignment at DFL (presently, an instructor tour is generally 2 or 3 years depending on JAX), I will most likely teach Law 220 every semester and at least one other course.

My teaching duties done for the day, I head back to my office, stopping a couple of times in the hallway to talk to former students or members of a club or team for which I am the OIC. I walk over to the Cadet Gym for a workout or head out for a run on the many trails around USAFA, again stopping to greet and talk with several cadets on the way. Workout done, I grab a quick lunch.

During the afternoon, I meet with a couple of my students for EI (extra instruction) on a topic with which they may be struggling or in which they are particularly interested. I make arrangements to travel to a tournament this weekend with the club team for which I am the OIC, and I review the package for a cadet honor board the next day for which I will be the Board Legal Advisor. Like many other DFL instructors, I am a SPEA (Squadron Professional Ethics Advisor) for a cadet squadron, and I meet with the squadron’s honor officer to discuss the next day’s lunchtime honor lesson for freshmen.

Later, I may participate in the Mock Trial Team’s afternoon or evening practice, I may work on some scholarly research and writing, or I may spend time being mentored by a more senior DFL instructor or mentoring those junior to me. In addition, I will start lesson preparation for my next classes.

Regardless of how I’ve spent my time, there is never enough of it, and I’m amazed when I look up at the clock to see that it’s time to go home to my family. I head home, and a day in the life of a DFL instructor comes to a close. . . unless, of course, I’m heading to an evening Falcon basketball or soccer game!

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U.S. Air Force Academy, USAFA, CO 80840, (719) 333-1110 DSN: 333-1110, Updated: 26 Jul 14
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