BAGHDAD, Iraq (BP)–United States Navy JAG officer Robert Brick* could be sitting in a cushy penthouse office litigating cases for a prestigious law firm. Instead, Brick, a Navy lawyer in Baghdad, Iraq, puts on full body armor and climbs into a heavily fortified Humvee with escorts just to get across town.
“I’ll never look at a quick trip to the courthouse in the same way again,” Brick said.
Brick’s mission is to help the Iraqis establish a criminal court system and prosecute insurgents. An experienced officer, he has traveled to 25 countries, taught international law on five continents and made court appearances in another Middle Eastern country and in Europe.
In Iraq, Brick said the American presence is viewed by many as a “necessary temporary evil” in their quest to obtain freedom.
“There is no question that the vast majority of Iraqis want freedom and democracy to spring up and take root,” Brick said. “This isn’t to say that they love us or always agree with our tactical decisions, but they do want a better and safer future for their families and they are glad Saddam is gone.”
A new father himself, Brick can appreciate the sentiment. Having left his own family behind to accept his assignment in Iraq, he is relying on the faith he has held since he was a young preacher’s kid to sustain him.
In an e-mail interview from Iraq with the Florida Baptist Witness, Brick said he joined the JAG Corps after a brief stint at a friend’s law firm.
“I knew the Lord had opened the door,” said Brick, who is active in a Southern Baptist church. “I’ve been blessed to serve my country.”
Brick said he doesn’t regret the choice he made to be a Navy attorney, though many of his school friends who have taken a more conventional path likely earn more income. In addition, Brick said he appreciates the environment in which he works, where “warrior ethos” dictates discipline and values.
“I love the fact that, as a military attorney, never once have I been put in a position that challenged or attempted to compromise my ethical principles,” Brick told the Witness. “My clients — military commanders — have always wanted me to do the right thing and valued my legal and ethical guidance.”
Impressed by the military’s leadership training, Brick said officers and enlisted leaders are required to read books that include titles by well-known Christian leaders such as John Maxwell. That training, combined with an environment Brick described as “largely isolated or set apart from moral relativism and secularism,” perpetuates a culture which tolerates a Christian influence.
“I’m not saying the military is an exclusively Christian environment,” Brick said. “But, Christianity is a dominant influence.”
Opportunities for ministry also abound in the military where regular deployments and constant moves take a toll on military families, Brick said. The constantly changing scenarios forces believers out of their “comfort zones” and moves them to rely on God for strength and fellowship.
In “walking a fine line between mentoring and counseling and perceived proseletizing,” Brick said he believes his greatest opportunity for witness is to simply live, serve and lead in a godly manner whereby others know he is different.
“Not swearing in an environment where bawdy locker room talk is commonplace sets one apart noticeably,” Brick said. “Silently bowing and praying before a meal in the chow hall is also a testimony.”
Recently, Brick had a chance to put his words into action.
Awakened abruptly at 5 a.m. on a morning not too long ago, Brick said he learned the ruckus was a result of a rocket attack which killed a soldier in his camp. Attending a service led by a Baptist chaplain, Brick said he was encouraged by the chaplain’s talk and took to heart the words of the popular inspirational chorus:
“I’m trading my sorrows,
“I’m trading my shame,
“I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.
“I’m trading my sickness,
“I’m trading my pain,
“I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.”
“When people notice I am different, and when I take the time to sit down with people I notice are hurting,” Brick said, “the Lord always opens up opportunities to share my faith and to be an encouragement.”
*The JAG officer’s name in this story has been changed and details left out for security reasons.