Azimuth Check: Farewell to a Fellow JAG

We all need an azimuth check every now and then. This weekend, I got a huge one.

In mid-2004, I reported to Fort Lee, Virginia where I underwent the first phase of training to be a JAG lawyer. This included learning Army customs and courtesies, basic weapons training, basic soldier skills, and other rudimentary military training. Owing to the fact that I’d already spent 5 years as an Infantryman, I asked to skip this stuff. Plus, I was already a Captain.Compass

Instead, the JAG powers-that-were told me, “Nope, we need you to be the class leader.”

This began about a dozen weeks of herding proverbial cats. It is one thing to deal with privates who have no clue about the Army. It is entirely different dealing with a gaggle of lawyers who have no clue about the Army.

The class consisted of Active Duty members, Reservists, and National Guard members. One of the National Guardsmen was a particularly clean-cut man who was about my age, First Lieutenant Beau Biden.

In short, Beau performed magnificently. He conducted himself as a quiet professional, even when enduring some of the less-endearing tasks, such as unmasking in the gas chamber, smearing camo paint on his face, and crawling on the ground while being yelled at to “get that helmet in the dirt!” He always had a smile on his face and seemed to enjoy the best part of the experience–being around the other members of the class. Nobody saw him as Joe Biden’s son. We all saw him as a good friend and a great classmate.

I didn’t stay in contact with Beau after we left Fort Lee. I’m not really the staying-in-touch type. However, I valued the time I spent with him, as did the rest of the class.

A fantastic friend. A great classmate. A quiet professional. A quality Army officer. An American Soldier.

He is missed.