A local graduate is now a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army and works as the regional defense counsel for Central Command stationed in Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Julie Simoni was born and raised in Knox and was on two weeks R&R when she came in to give us an update on how she’s been doing since she graduated from Knox High School in 1989. She is proud to have had some of the core values she learned in her small town to take with her as she moves through the ranks in the Army.
“Hard work, integrity, honesty, put in a good day’s work and you earn your keep – those are probably the main values I learned,” she stated.
Currently, she is in charge of all of the Army defense lawyers and paralegals in 14 different countries, including Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Egypt. She has worked hard to get to this point.
“I graduated from West Point in 1993 and was an active military police officer in Germany and then I was a Reserve Quartermaster Officer in New Mexico. I was the Utah National Guard Medical Service Corps Officer and deployed to Special Forces to Mongolia and to Honduras for medical service affairs projects.
“After 911, I came back out on active duty after I got my law degree. I came on active duty again in the JAG Corps in January 2002 and I’ve been on active duty as a Judge Advocate Officer since then. I started out as a captain and now lieutenant colonel.
“I was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and was with the 101st Airborne Division when we invaded Iraq. I was an international lawyer during that time which means I gave rules of engagement and targeting advice during the invasion.
“I’ve been a prosecutor for about five years in the Army. I’ve been a chief prosecutor in two different units with the recruiting command in the 82nd Airborne Division and now I’m doing the defense side. I really enjoy that as well,” Simoni said.
She commented that she always wanted to serve her country and has always respected those who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
Lt. Col. Simoni is currently stationed in Afghanistan which she says has its pros and cons.
“It smells, we use port-a-potties and the food’s not all that great, but I serve with the best soldiers in the world. We’re all living there together and you get to do some really incredible things. It’s just sometimes the conditions aren’t that great,” said Simoni.
One of those incredible things is getting to teach Afghan children.
“I get to interact a lot with seven-to-twelve year olds. I volunteer for what’s called ‘Operation Cat in the Hat’ where we teach English to Afghan children. We have 120 students right now. You can see their attitude towards us has changed from kind of skittish to now they love coming to our classes,” Simoni explained.
She talks of the current operations of the military in Afghanistan.
“Operational-wise, we are now transitioning to assist and advise. The U.S. soldiers’ role, starting in March and going to the summer, is transitioning from part of the offensive to now we’re kind of a 911. If the Afghanistan National Army wants our help, they ask for it and we’ll help them. We are downsizing drastically. Starting in March and through the summer there will be another huge downsizing. There will be parts of the country where we won’t cover anymore, but other NATO countries may cover or the Afghans will cover themselves. You’re going to see between now and December 2014 a downsizing of approximately 8,000 to 10,000 soldiers. We’ll be coming home,” Simoni said.
Lt. Col. Julie Simoni will be moving stateside in June and continue her legal career on an Army base in Virginia.
She returned to Afghanistan on Saturday.