by Ryan Labadens, US Navy Public Affairs
For Navy Lt. Robert Baxter, working with the law is a part of his family’s history and something he has been interested in pursuing ever since he can remember.
Baxter, the new staff judge advocate for Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport, Miss., comes from a long line a family who has worked in some capacity in the law enforcement or legal arena.
He grew up in Seattle, Wa., and attended university in the District of Columbia at The George Washington University (GW), where he majored in international affairs with a focus on security policy studies. He worked at the Department of Justice (DOJ) for a while, and then he attended law school at GW while working at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). While he was at those organizations, Baxter worked on various national security matters alongside other military reserve and active-duty attorneys.
“I think that experience, as well as coming from a family of public service, is what led me to the military and, more specifically, the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAGC),” said Baxter.
Both his father and grandfather served in law enforcement – his father as a county sheriff and his grandfather in the Bureau of Federal Prisons.
“The concept of public service and the law-and-order side helped create my interest in law, but I am the first person in my immediate family to be active duty,” said Baxter.
Baxter’s experience working along the military attorneys at the DOJ and DIA spurred his interest in joining the military, particularly the Navy JAGC.
“We are one of the only forward deployed military forces, so recognizing that the Navy is always at sea, that was kind of the catalyst or thought process that led me toward this branch,” said Baxter.
While still in law school, Baxter applied for the JAGC through the Navy JAG Corps’ Student Program, which enables selected law students to commission in the inactive Navy Reserve while attending law school so that, upon law school graduation, bar admission and successful completion of Navy Officer Development School, participants can be appointed as active-duty Navy judge advocates, according to the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps website. He then received his Navy commission in 2014.
Baxter noted judge advocates are usually exposed to different areas of law during their military legal careers, working as general attorneys, prosecutors and defense counsels as a few examples. He started working as the staff judge advocate here at NCBC in April 2020.
“The JAGC was created in a sense to advise military commanders on matters of regulation, policy and law,” said Baxter. “In my current role I am a staff judge advocate, which is in the realm of providing advice to an individual commander [which in his current position would be the NCBC commanding officer, Capt. William Whitmire]. The most analogous to it in the civilian world would be a general counsel.”
Baxter said that’s one of the things he enjoys about being in the JAGC since it gives him the opportunity to be a critical thinker and part of a team to help the base commander and command staff navigate everyday legal issues they may face as well as larger tasks or problems they may encounter from a legal perspective.
That teamwork ideal is also one of the reasons behind his decision to pursue a legal career in the Navy.
“Very much the reason I chose the Navy is the collaborative, team mindset,” said Baxter. “It’s definitely a ‘One Team, One Fight’ concept.”