COLUMBIA, South Carolina - Legal experts from the South Carolina National Guard's Judge Advocate General Corps hosted an engagement with their legal counterparts from the Colombian National Defense Ministry in Columbia on May 18-22, 2015.
The visit was coordinated and conducted in support of the South Carolina National Guard's State Partnership Program with the Republic of Colombia, which has been in place since 2012.
This engagement was the first legal engagement of the State Partnership Program to be conducted in South Carolina. The Colombians hosted a similar visit with representatives of the South Carolina National Guard JAG Corps in June of 2014.
The purposes of the engagement included providing the guests with a familiarization of state and federal legal processes and procedures through facility visits, presentations and meetings with subject matter experts. Primary operational law concerns specific to the Colombian National Defense Ministry were also addressed during the visit.
Some of the highlights of the visit included a visit with Professor Gordon Smith and his team from the University of South Carolina's Rule of Law Collaborative, a meeting with the Fort Jackson Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Robert Manley and his branch chiefs, a meeting with legal representatives from U.S. Army Central Command at Shaw Air Force Base, and a visit to the South Carolina National Guard's Joint Operations Center, where they received a tour of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division headquarters led by Lt. Col. Chris Barton, the South Carolina Army National Guard's JAG chief of domestic operations law. Manly and Lt. Col. William "Deebo" Kelly, deputy state judge advocate for the South Carolina National Guard, accompanied Barton during the tour.
Maj. Dan Johnson of the South Carolina Air National Guard provided the visitors with a briefing on his civilian role as the elected Solicitor for South Carolina's Fifth Judicial Circuit (Richland and Kershaw Counties), which was followed by a trial observation in General Sessions Court (Circuit Court for Criminal Trials).
Other legal engagements included a meeting with the Honorable Justice Costa Pleicones of the South Carolina Supreme Court during a visit to the South Carolina State House, followed by an observation of a state House session, where the Colombian delegation were recognized by South Carolina Rep. James Smith, also a major in the South Carolina Army National Guard, and were acknowledged by South Carolina Sen. Vincent Sheheen.
The South Carolina State House visit also included a meeting with retired Col. Barry Bernstein, a former State Judge Advocate for the South Carolina National Guard and the current chief of staff for the South Carolina Attorney General's Office, who provided the delegation with a better understanding of the role of the National Guard within the federal and state governments and an overview of the role of the Attorney General's Office.
The visit to the capitol concluded with a tour of the South Carolina Court of Appeals led by South Carolina Court of Appeals Judge James Lockemy, also a retired Judge Advocate from the South Carolina Army National Guard.
The engagement finished with a visit to The Adjutant General's Building in Columbia for a meeting with Brig. Gen. R. Van McCarty, deputy adjutant general, South Carolina National Guard, which resulted in an exchange of ideas concerning common goals that could be addressed in future state partnership program efforts.
"Our relationship as a state partner with Colombia is something that we take great pride in," McCarty said. "Although it's a fairly new partnership, it's a credit to both groups on how well we've come together and understood what we were trying to accomplish, which has helped us with having the success that we've had."
Capt. Matthew Pinckney, a South Carolina Army National Guard judge advocate who helped lead the tour on behalf of the South Carolina National Guard State Partnership Program Legal Team, said that the visit has been as an absolute success.
"U.S. Army Southern Command personnel and our colleagues' leadership in Colombia are extremely pleased with the results," Pinckney said.