CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Far East District (FED) Office of Counsel supports the district not only as legal counselors but as decision makers, which play a critical role in the planning and execution of district projects.
The overall goal of the office of counsel is to practice preventive law and to get out in front of the planning and design phases of a project to facilitate smooth and effective execution.
Due to a high workload and a current staff vacancy, the district has sought the assistance of attorneys from various districts throughout USACE. So far three attorneys have come to the district for temporary duty assignments. Currently, Jacob Stephens, New Orleans District Assistant Counsel, is serving a two month temporary duty with the district.
Attorneys from stateside Corps offices typically work on civil works projects. Working at the FED is a unique opportunity in that it is located in an overseas location and the majority of its projects are affiliated with the military.
Stephens has never been in the military and stated that this is his first time working on a military installation. With all of those factors, Stephens said that he didn’t have any expectations prior to arriving in Korea.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Stephens. “In New Orleans we’re in a building on a river, so I didn’t know what it would be like being on a military base. It’s like a whole different world here. I am enjoying my time here so far.”
Stephens stated that the work here is quite familiar to him as he has a background with the subject matter.
“I’m working procurements and other related work,” said Stephens. “Most of it [work] includes reviewing and advising on contracts.”
Although the type of work is familiar, there a few things Stephens had to learn, which helps him correctly perform his duties.
“I am familiar with contracts in general, however, Bob [Sundberg], [Far East District Counsel], pointed me to the different provisions of MILCON [military construction] and military funding,” said Stephens. “So I just review those provisions as I review the contracts so they’re applicable.”
Much like New Orleans, Seoul has its own unique history, culture, and food, which draws many tourists each year. Traveling to Asia was an opportunity Stephens couldn’t pass over, although he didn’t know much about Korea aside from a two-hour training video prior to arriving.
“I went to Seoul and it felt like a different version of New York, so it felt natural,” said Stephens.
The Far East District will continue to receive assistance from throughout USACE to assist with the district’s workload until the office of counsel fills its vacant position.