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Operational Readiness legal brief

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As we look forward to our upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection, there are many legal concepts that we must keep in mind. Each of us should have the situational awareness to recognize potential legal issues.

Criminal jurisdiction during ORI: While on orders, we are all subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In addition, we are generally subject to the laws of the area in which we are operating. If we are stateside, we would be subject to federal, state and local jurisdiction. If overseas, we would be subject to host nation laws with certain exceptions. You should familiarize yourself with relevant laws in your Area of Responsibility. If you see or hear of a crime, you should report it to your security forces, your commander and the legal office.

General Orders: General Orders apply to all U.S. Armed Forces under the commander issuing the order. Typically, General Orders prohibit, among other things, alcohol, pornography and sexual intercourse while in a war zone. Violation of a General Order is a crime under the UCMJ. You should be briefed on all General Orders in your Area of Responsibility.

Status of Forces Agreements: SOFAs are agreements between the U.S. and another nation that cover a variety of legal matters, including treatment of military members. If a military member commits a crime in a foreign country and a SOFA exists with that country, the SOFA may provide jurisdictional guidance in the situation. Commanders should familiarize themselves with applicable SOFAs as soon as practical.

Rules of Engagement: Our actions must be in accordance with the ROEs applicable to our environment. ROEs compliment the Law of Armed Conflict and can limit the way in which we engage in operations. Keep in mind a service member always has the inherent right to self-defense. During the ORI, there will likely be peacetime ROEs and hostile ROEs. An order will likely be dropped when hostile ROEs become effective.

Foreign Claims: It is not uncommon for property damage to occur during military operations. If anyone (American or foreign) complains of property damage during operations, you should refer them to the legal office for assistance. Property damage may include loss of use of one's property.

If you have any questions: For more information on the items above or any other matters, please contact the 302 Airlift Wing's Judge Advocate Office.