"Armed forces continue to operate in uncertain and complex environments and this story is an insightful and powerful look into the challenges and judgments faced by a young sniper deployed to the battlefield of Iraq." --Brigadier General Jeffery L. Underhill, U.S. Army Retired, (Iraq Veteran)
"This book is a strong caution for all military commanders who would consider judging the warriors who run towards the sound of gunfire. Front-line actions should be judged from a front-line perspective, not for how those actions may play in the news." --Dave Earp, Former U.S. Navy SEAL Officer, USNA '97, BUDS Class #230, (Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran)
"Saving Sandoval gives an inside look at the scrutiny Soldiers face on the battlefield and the politics involved in modern day warfare." --Major Chris Ophardt, U.S. Army, Public Affairs Officer to the Secretary of the Army, 2016-2017, (Iraq Veteran)
From the Author
I started Saving Sandoval back in 2007 by taking notes while still in Iraq after I represented Specialist Sandoval in his court-martial. In the back of my mind, I knew that the case had been a game-changer for me both personally and professionally. Sandoval's case was the first time that I represented someone wrongly accused of a serious crime. In his case, the most serious of crimes, murder.
I also knew that time was not on my side if I was going to recount everything that had transpired the six months before. Fortunately, I realized that I needed to make some notes and put all the documents from the casefile together in one location. I was not sure then that I would write a book, I only knew that I wanted to capture my thoughts and collect all the documents about the case.
Around 2009, two years after the trial, I decided that the best way to tell the story would be through a book. Thereafter, for literally years I would occasionally pull out the banker's box full of papers and the thumb drive with miscellaneous notes, drafts and transcripts and sit down to piece everything together. Life kept getting in the way and after leaving the Army in 2010 and starting my own law firm it seemed that life continued to be on overdrive. Realizing that the pace of life was not going to slow, I decided to make it a priority to finish the book. With the help of family, friends, and some professional input, the book has taken shape into what is now a final product.
BEING A JAG ATTORNEY
The role of a Judge Advocate, or JAG, is varied depending on the specific assignment. The initial criteria to be a Judge Advocate is to have gone to law school, be licensed to practice law in at least one State, and complete the required military training to be a military officer and military attorney. There are Judge Advocates serving in the military in nearly every type of position. There are prosecutors, defense attorneys, administrative law attorneys, human rights attorneys, professors and legal assistance attorney handling general criminal issues for servicemembers.
My experience started out as representing and advising servicemembers and their families in Legal Assistance. In that role, I prepared wills, basic trusts, powers of attorney, simple legal documents, and wrote letters on behalf of servicemembers attempting to resolve any personal legal issues. Thereafter, I was assigned as a Trial Counsel, or prosecutor, and represented the United States in the criminal investigation and prosecution of servicemembers. The Trial Counsel typically has two enlisted soldier-paralegals and is responsible for prosecuting cases at trial, overseeing criminal investigations, preparing letters of reprimand, and generally supervising the disposition of all misconduct. After serving as a Trial Counsel for over a year for the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade (Airborne), and jointly assigned to the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA), I was transitioned from prosecuting soldiers to defending them and was offered the opportunity to deploy to a combat zone to defend soldiers. I was re-assigned to the command of the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service and deployed to Iraq. Once in Iraq I was immediately assigned as the lead defense counsel for Specialist Jorge G. Sandoval Jr.
THE CHANGING BATTLEFIELD OF WARFARE
Saving Sandoval tells the story of the trial and defense of Specialist Sandoval, however it also focuses on the changed battlefield and the changed dynamic of modern warfare. For the most part, the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, and Desert Storm involved distinct battlefields and common uniforms on both sides. Vietnam was one of the first large-scale conflicts where the battlefields began to blur and the enemy did not wear a common uniform. Any student of history knows that that Vietnam War was not a success both in the public's perception of the war, and on the battlefields. America excels at defeating a clear enemy, however where the enemy, and the battlefield, are not clear we have seemed to struggle at achieving long-term victory over the enemy.
Today, and in the foreseeable future, the battlefields of war have changed and it is highly unlikely that there will ever again be clear lines on a battlefield with one side charging against the other on open plains or beaches. Our military leaders--and, perhaps more importantly, the American public--must contend with and accept this new reality and the uncertainty of combat when we send our men and women to war.