Serving with JAG Corps in Iraq

Lt. Col. Michael McWright ('85) with the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps
By Hali Chiet ('07)

Lt. Col. Michael McWright ('85)

Lt. Col. Michael McWright ('85) outside Camp Anaconda, Balad, Iraq in October 2005.

From Madison to law school

Lt. Col. Michael McWright ('85) has been all over the globe since graduating from Madison. After earning a B.S. in political science and a minor in criminal justice, McWright went on to Ohio Northern University for law school, where he received his Juris Doctor in 1988. He then passed the Indiana bar exam and began private practice in Versailles, Ind. About a year later, McWright decided to apply for the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

A military journey with the JAG Corps

"I went into the JAG Corps because I felt an obligation to serve our country in the military, and [wanted] the opportunity to practice law in various legal fields," he says. "The JAG Corps has officers assigned all over the continental United States and throughout the world so it provided a great opportunity to see many different places."

In June 1989, McWright was commissioned as a first lieutenant and went on to the Judge Advocate Officer Basic Training Course in September. With his training completed, McWright began his military journey. "I was stationed at Fort Gordon, Ga., from 1989 to 1992; Fort Stewart, Ga., from 1992 to 1995; Fort Riley, Kan., from 1995 to 1997; received my Master's of Law from the Army Judge Advocate General's School in 1998; was on the faculty at the Air Force Judge Advocate General's School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., from 1998 to 2001; was deputy staff judge advocate at Fort Polk, La., from 2001 to 2003; and was deputy staff judge advocate at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., from 2003 to 2005."

With the Army's Trial Defense Service

In June 2005, McWright deployed to Iraq, where he is the regional defense counsel, Region IX (Middle East) for the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service. He is currently stationed at Camp Victory in Baghdad. "The TDS mission is to provide a full range of criminal defense legal services to soldiers, which includes representing soldiers charged with criminal offenses at trial and during criminal investigations or in other adverse criminal or administrative actions," he says.

McWright supervises 21 Army trial defense attorneys stationed throughout the Middle East and Afghanistan. "I do a good bit of traveling throughout Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan to where my supervisees are located," he says.

"I had a blast at JMU ... I'd love to come back and teach someday."

After a yearlong tour in Iraq, McWright will return to the U.S. in summer 2006. He will then take the role of executive officer for the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service Headquarters, located in the Washington, D.C., area. "I am glad I deployed to Iraq because I have so many great soldiers and attorneys working with me, but I am looking forward to getting back to the states after my year is up and seeing my wife, Andrea," he says.

McWright is a proud member of the Duke Club. Although he wasn't a part of the ROTC program at JMU, he says that the military science courses he took were some of his favorites. "I had a blast at JMU and am amazed at the growth of the school since I graduated over 20 years ago," he says. "I'd love to come back and teach someday."