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Home > Rob Vasquez
Lt. Col. Rob Vasquez



Rob Vasquez

Judge Advocate, United States Army
Year Graduated: 1994

Profile

Maybe it was in his blood. After all, the mother of Lt. Col. Rob Vasquez, '94, was a U.S. Navy doctor. His parents grew up during the World War II Japanese occupation of the Philippines and recall fondly when American soldiers liberated their country.

But when he joined the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps nearly 22 years ago, Vasquez wasn't thinking about his family's personal connection to the U.S. military. Vasquez joined the Army to practice law because he relished having immediate responsibilities, including the chance to prosecute cases in the courtroom right away and to practice a wide range of law throughout the world.

"I feel blessed to have served the way I have and the experiences that I've gained because of it," Vasquez says. "Still, I realize that serving is a lot more important than any personal gain."

As Vasquez had hoped two decades ago, he has practiced diverse areas of law throughout his career. He has tried more than 50 court-martial cases as a prosecutor in South Carolina and as a defense attorney to soldiers stationed in Korea. He has helped soldiers with personal legal matters, including family law, landlord-tenant and consumer protection matters. He worked with the Iraqi government on how to treat detainees during and after the Iraq war. He has been an advisor on U.S. efforts to prevent, investigate and hold accountable perpetrators of war crimes and human rights violations.

Vasquez has been the command judge advocate for the Army's regional health command in Honolulu, Hawaii since 2015. As general counsel for the Army's command that provides health care to soldiers, their families and retirees across the Asia-Pacific region, he oversees an area that covers 15 time zones: "from Hollywood to Bollywood, from polar bears to penguins."

His office provides counsel on a variety of legal areas, including health law, employment law, fiscal law and international law. The command has relationships with foreign militaries and civilian health care systems across the region, and conducts medical missions, which build goodwill in countries that are important strategic and geopolitical partners.

At McGeorge School of Law, Vasquez was selected to be on the school's national Moot Court competition team. He also was president of the Asian/Pacific American Law Student Association.  "The emphasis that McGeorge places on its advocacy programs is fantastic," Vasquez says. "I was especially pleased with how McGeorge valued diversity. I grew so much there, professionally and personally."

Vasquez has been called to provide legal advice in several high-profile situations. From 2009 to 2011, he served at Fort Hood, Tex., as chief of international and operational law. When Nidal Hasan went on a mass shooting spree, killing 13 people and wounding more than two dozen others, Vasquez advised the command on the appropriate use of military force in response, and was responsible for providing updates to the Pentagon every two hours afterward.

From 2013 to 2015, Vasquez served as a military advisor to the Ambassador-at-Large of the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the State Department. His role was to help the ambassador, an expert on international criminal law and human rights violations, understand how foreign security forces operate and train.

Vasquez's insights were used to explain whether actions by these forces constituted war crimes. In this position, he also worked on the U.S.-led global coalition's campaign against ISIS. When ISIS crossed the border from Syria into Iraq, taking control of major cities and killing Iraqis by the thousands, the Iraqi government asked the U.S. for help. The U.S., in assisting the Iraqis, was concerned not only with continued ISIS-initiated violence, but also with the potential for retribution-style responses, Vasquez says.

"One of my greatest challenges was to articulate what we as a coalition can do to respect, protect and enforce human rights as it fought ISIS," Vasquez says. "I will always feel I accomplished something important by making that part of the coalition's priorities. When I look back on my life, I'll say this was probably the most significant contribution I've made to the cause of justice."

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