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Feature Stories

NEWS | June 8, 2023

USARCENT honors partner legal professional graduates

By Sgt. Egypt Johnson USARCENT

Two international military legal professionals from the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility recently graduated from the 71st Judge Advocate Officer Graduate Course at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School on June 1, 2023.

Col. Shawn Smith, U.S. Army Central staff judge advocate, attended the graduation to demonstrate USARCENT's commitment to partnerships with international legal professionals.

“Historically, the USCENTCOM AOR has been a part of the world where the focus has always been on counter terrorism, but now we are moving into an area where the emphasis isn’t on terrorism, its on partnership,” said Smith. “USARCENT values active partnerships and builds strong relationships with partner nations.”

Throughout the 71st Judge Advocate Officer Graduate Course, Smith communicated with Maj. Chen Shmallo-Mantzur of the Israel Defense Forces and Lt. Col Mohammed Agele from the Iraqi Armed Forces. The graduates shared their insights into the U.S. military justice system and their country’s approach to national security law and the Law of War.

“I was surprised to discover that despite the differences between the two legal systems that the United States Judge Advocate General’s Corps and the Israeli Military Advocate General’s Corps often face similar challenges such as effectively communicating legal advice to commanders, enforcing the rule of law in the midst of military operations and hostilities, and retaining quality personnel without compromising the strict requirement within our military,” said Shmallo-Mantzur, who serves as an attorney for the Israeli Armed Forces.

Shmallo-Mantzur served five years as a legal advisor until she was selected to attend the 71st Judge Advocate Officer Graduate Course.

“I was excited to come here and take advantage of the opportunity. Usually in my unit there are not a lot of opportunities, so this was unique,” said Shmallo-Mantzur. “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I have never been to the U.S. before and I’ve never lived abroad. I was excited to learn about a different legal system and to broaden my horizons.”

Every year in Israel a top performing officer is selected to attend the course. Shmallo-Mantzur was hand-selected by Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, a former student and graduate of the Graduate Course, due to her outstanding work ethic. Shmallo-Mantzur’s professional background includes national security law, occupation law, and the Law of War.

“Israel used to be aligned with USEUCOM, but now we partner with Israel in the USCENTCOM AOR when historically it hasn’t always been the case,” said Smith.

Consistent with the longstanding security relationship between the U.S. and Israel, Col. Smith reiterated the U.S. commitment to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter potential adversaries and defend itself against any threat. Smith provided insights to the graduates of the prospect of future military cooperation between the U.S., and regional partners.

Lt. Col. Mohammed Agele, Iraqi Armed Forces attorney, said that his experiences and the knowledge gained from the course will develop and strengthen the Iraqi military justice system.

“It was an amazing experience. We received a lot of specific training from different law subjects such as human rights,” said Agele. “It is important for me to apply it to the legal system in my country.”

Agele’s area of practice includes national security law, where he has advised on antiterrorism operations in the USCENTCOM AOR. The U.S. embassy offered security cooperation and coordinated Agele’s enrollment into the 71st Judge Advocate Graduate Course.

“We fight one hand against terrorism and insurgency for our national security,” said Agele. “We are strong and we will achieve our mutual goals in a good way.”

As Theater Army and Coalition Forces Land Component Command, USARCENT enables the Joint Force in named operations and partners with regional land forces to build enduring coalitions that consolidate gains against violent extremist organizations, counter Iranian malign influence, and compete against Russia and China; while simultaneously resetting the theater for future operations and ready to prevail in crisis response and contingency operations in support of USCENTCOM.