David Schrom (BSJ '94) never imagined himself sitting in a pit in Bosnia giving legal advice to a base camp commander. He pictured himself becoming a weather forecaster, and the thought of becoming a judge advocate (JAG Corps) for the U.S. government never entered his mind while he studied broadcast journalism.
But his plans turned in a new direction when he entered his junior year in college and became inspired to pursue a career in law. After graduation, Schrom packed his bags and headed for West Virginia University College of Law. He graduated in May 1997 and was sworn in to the bars of West Virginia and the Federal District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Unlike many other law students, Schrom wasn't interested in a 9-to-5 job. He was looking for a nontraditional job that was both challenging and exciting. So he joined the Army, went on to graduate from airborne school in February 1998 and was promoted to captain in April 1998.
He currently works as a criminal prosecutor at First Cavalry Division at Fort Hood in Killeen, TX. Schrom's first duty is to serve his country as a soldier. His second is to provide legal services for the military.
But Schrom's training goes beyond courtroom behaviorÑhe is also trained to jump out of airplanes.
"I never realized how mortal I was until I looked death in the face," he said about his first jump.
"It's not something that I would like to do often."
Schrom explained that combat parachuting is very different from civilian skydiving. During a war, planes have to fly low, causing the jumping soldier to be an open target. Therefore, the fall lasts only about 11 seconds, while in civilian parachuting the fall can last more than a minute.
"If anything goes wrong, you have only a few seconds to activate the second parachute and save your life," he said.
When it comes to war, most people probably think of bloodshed and destruction. However, there is far more to war than most realize, Schrom explains. Although it might seem a paradox, the government's goal is to fight a civilized war. This is where soldiers like Schrom come in.
One of his main responsibilities is to advise base camp commanders on treaties and war laws. He also provides soldiers with legal assistance.
"If they're concerned with personal issues, they won't make good soldiers," he explained. Because he has recently been promoted to criminal prosecutor, he decides how soldiers should be punished when they break laws.
Schrom's job isn't confined to the United States. This spring he was assigned to the peace-keeping mission in Bosnia. While there he will advise the base camp commander on the "laws of war," represent up to 2,000 soldiers, deal with claims and prosecute criminals.
Although his job in the JAG Corps is a far cry from broadcasting, he feels that his strong communication background has made him an effective lawyer. Schrom says he is glad he chose military law as his profession because every day holds a new challenge.
"I went through the blood, sweat and tears of the military and came out physically, mentally and spiritually stronger," he said.