Are you prepared for the commitment?
This first step requires a gut check. The thought of serving as a "JAG" in the Army National Guard may seem interesting at the onset, however, it will require you to put your Country ahead of self, family, and private sector employment. To gauge whether you are truly willing to make this commitment, I recommend reading the book entitled, "Army Officer's Guide," 47th Ed. by LTC Lawrence P. Crocker (buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Army-Officers-Guide-47th-ed/dp/0811726657) and paying particular attention to the preface, Part One, and Part Two. I also recommend reading the autobiographies of General Colin Powell and General Norman Schwarzkopf to get a flavor of what Duty, Honor and Country are all about.
Are you qualified?
The general requirements for eligibility are located on the Judge Advocate Recruiting Office ("JARO") website located at this link: (www.goarmy.com/jag/procres.pdf). Generally, a candidate needs to: (1) be in good physical condition (meeting Army height/weight requirements); (2) have graduated from an ABA approved law school; (3) be a member in good standing with the highest court of the candidate's state; and (4) in possession of strong moral character and demonstrated leadership skills. The following is a link to a National Guard FAQ on becoming a JAG: http://www.nationalguard.com/careers/jag-officer
How to initiate the application process
This process requires in-depth documentation of your credentials and your past, including a social security card, certified birth certificate, certified transcripts of all academic records, your official military personnel file with prior or current military service, a certificate of good standing from your supreme court, and 3 letters of recommendation among other health and background related information. Here is the link to the National Guard application materials: https://www.jagcnet.army.mil/8525769A00495E0D/0/94F373E0358366F8852576390046E715?opendocument&noly=1
Interview and Medical screening
As part of your application process, you will interview with National Guard JAG leadership at a base located in your state. You should be prepared to address your credentials, commitment, willingness to comply with the training, and enthusiasm for service in what most likely will include oversees deployment. You should also address any health or personal background issues at that time. You will also go through comprehensive medical screening either through a MEPS station or through a private clinic through DODMERB.
It is very important to be in good health, physically fit and have a clean and exemplary record with demonstrated leadership. In my research, I discovered the Army and National Guard may provide waivers for health conditions, age, poor financial decisions and potentially for past character issues (e.g., criminal record, employment misconduct, alcohol and mental health issues, etc.); however, you need to realize these blemishes on your background do present obstacles which will need to be addressed upfront and honestly in order to be overcome in your application. Be completely honest and forthright in disclosing this information at the onset. In terms of ensuring your expectations are realistic, be prepared to address each of these issues in terms which show that they will not impair your ability to serve honorably and with distinction. Note that the application process takes time between 6 months and a year, and you must exercise patience with the process.
Federal Recognition Board
This guide deals specifically with the Army National Guard JAG Corps application process (as compared with the Army Reserves process), and one additional hurdle unique to this process, is that if your application is approved by JARO, you will then be required to appear before your state's Federal Recognition Board before being offered a commission. This Board typically consists of a panel of three senior officers. Interview questions will vary widely, but you should be prepared to discuss your background and evidence of your commitment to service, your knowledge of the Army, your state Guard and JAG organizations (including chain of command starting with the Secretary of Defense), the Army Values, Soldier's Creed, and a solid understanding of global military current events, and finally, what being an officer will mean to you and your leadership style. Sincerity, attention to detail, and preparedness for the interview will ensure a positive experience.
Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course (JAOBC)
After your application is approved and you pass the Federal Recognition Board, you will be sworn into service and then eligible to enroll in the Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course which consists of two phases of approximately 3 months. The first two weeks which teach the basics of military protocol (wear of the uniform, military customs and courtesies, chain of command, etc) (Ft. Lee phase), the next ten weeks consist of training in military law (Charlottesville phase). Learn more at this link: https://www.jagcnet.army.mil/8525736A005BC8F9/0/E7677A691B46E0E4852573540070ED01?opendocument&noly=1
Direct Commissioned Officer Course (DCO).
In addition to the JAOBC, a JAG candidate must attend the Direct Commission Officer Course - DCO which consists of six weeks of officer field training. In most circumstances DCO is required to be taken concurrently to the JAOBC; however, in some cases JAOBC and DCO can be bifurcated, or with prior officer training, may be waived. Here is a link to DCO information: https://www.benning.army.mil/dco/