Navy program provides path for enlisted sailor to earn Scalia law degree, join JAG Corps
September 14, 2017 / by Buzz McClain
While other graduates of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University were contemplating representing clients after their graduation in May, Christopher Salmon was thinking about representing an entire fleet.
Salmon is the first enlisted sailor to have his law degree paid for by the Navy’s In-Service Procurement Program, a highly selective program that provides a pathway and funding to the elite Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
“The program was an answered prayer,” he said. Otherwise, Salmon would have had to resign from the Navy, transfer to the Naval Reserves, attend and graduate from law school, and then reapply for the Navy and the JAG Corps—and hope for acceptance.
Salmon is an Aviation Electrician’s Mate 1st Class stationed at the Navy Yard in Southeast Washington, D.C. He enlisted in the Navy in 2006 and earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Hawaii Pacific University in 2013 before his transfer to the Navy Yard.
In 2013 the Navy instituted the In-Service Procurement Program, which pays for one enlisted sailor to attend law school and earn a commissioning as a judge advocate each year. Salmon was chosen over the 11 other eligible sailors who applied.
Salmon said he chose George Mason because “it’s a Tier 1 law school in Washington that is very military friendly and has a national security focus.” His classmates included military veterans, another active duty sailor and a Navy lieutenant, as well as civilians from various fields.
The professors he encountered, he said, were impressive as well: “They were leaders in their fields and usually were on the cutting edge of the law, either testifying before Congress, writing books or leading conferences.”
The student also made an impression on his professors.
“His combination of intelligence, quiet persistence and devotion to family, to faith, to academics and to the military was amazing,” said Scalia Law professor Helen M. Alvaré.
“He was a marvelous and engaged student in class—and kindness personified, to me, and to the students from many religions and no particular religion who signed up for my Law and Religion seminar . . . He is a student I am proud to know and be associated with and will be even prouder, I am sure, as the years go by.”
The proximity to Washington, D.C., was also beneficial for Salmon. He completed four internships, including stints at the Navy’s and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s international law offices and the Fairfax County Circuit Court.
With his bar exam behind him—he took it this summer in Hawaii and is awaiting the results—Salmon is working at the Region Legal Services Office at the Navy Yard until he can begin his career with the JAG Corps.