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TAG at Operation Jump Start

By Staff Sgt. Barbara Harbison, 108ARW/PA

Maj. John F. “Jack” O’Connell, Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, 108th Air Refueling Wing, was recently named the recipient of the U.S. Air Force Award for the Outstanding Reserve/Guard JAG for 2006.

“It is a distinct honor to be receiving the Judge Advo- Harmon Award which honors the first Judge Advocate General of the Air Force,” said testament to all the dedicated members of the Air Force JAG Corps who are serving throughout the world and who are contributing to the fight in the Global War of Terrorism.”

With a few twists to his story, Maj. O’Connell could be the model for Harmon Rabb, the character on the television show, “JAG.” In O’Connell’s previous life, he spent 10 years in the U.S. Navy as a pilot where he flew an F-14 Tomcat logging almost 1,000 hours and 200 carrier landings aboard the USS America and flying combat missions in support of Operation Desert Storm. Six years later he joined the 108th as a member of the JAG section.

O’Connell grew up in South Amboy and attended Christian Brothers Academy, Lindcroft. He did his undergraduate work at Seton Hall University and the University of Pennsylvania and got his law degree at the Seton Hall University School of Law. “I felt an obligation, a sense of duty, in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11,” said O’Connell when asked the reason he came back into the military.

Since joining the Air National Guard he has been deployed to Guantanamo, Cuba and left again in May 2007 for his second deployment to Iraq. As an Air Guard JAG during his deployment to Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, he was attached to the 50th Brigade, New Jersey Army National Guard, 42nd Infantry Division. He served as the primary operational law advisor to the Joint Detention Operations Group Commander and as the Officerin- Charge (OIC) of the camp legal office.

Shortly after his return from Guantanamo, he deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, with the Multi National Forces – O’Connell served as a Strategic Planner and Legal Advisor to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Plans and ond Iraq deployment, he will again be serving as a Strategic Planner/Legal Advisor on Gen. David H. Petraeus’ staff. When O’Connell is home in New Jersey long enough to rest his hat, his civilian job is as the in-house counsel for New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

O’Connell was nominated for the award by Maj. Gen. Kurt Cichowski, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Plans and Assessment, MNF-I, his commander while deployed in Iraq. In the award nomination, O’Connell was cited for serving as the Strategic Planner and Legal Advisor on Multi- National Force Iraq Commanding General’s staff in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, developed Desert Protector Strategy, which had an immediate and significant impact on counter insurgency operations and was the Deputy Chief of Staff’s go-to guy on the ever-evolving Iraqi Constitution. In between OEF and OIF deployments, he completed the six-week AOC Course at Air Force Special Operations Command graduating in the top of his class with a 98.5 average. O’Connell has been a leading advocate for a state bar association sponsored legal assistance program for deployed military members as well as members stationed in CONUS.

Col. Michael Cunniff, Commander, 108th Air Refueling Wing stated, “There is no one better to represent the wing than Maj. O’Connell on the War on Global Terrorism. I am extremely proud and honored that he has represented the 108th on numerous deployments during these past three years and all that hard work has proven itself with this prestigious award.”

Table of Contents
Volume 33 Number 3 Staff / Information
(c) 2007 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs