UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Captain Jason Samuel '14 and Captain Kyle Krombach '12 are both part of the proud tradition of “Marines defending Marines” as Marine Corps judge advocates in the Marine Corps Defense Services Organization. But before they joined the few and the proud, Krombach and Samuel were part of a different tradition: the strong support of military members at Penn State Law.
Samuel enlisted in the Reserves as an undergraduate student, and was commissioned in 2011 as a Marine Corps judge advocate, the only branch of the military to offer that commission prior to law school matriculation. During his time as a student at Penn State Law, Samuel served on the Student Bar Association, as a 1L class representative, vice president, and president, and participated on the Trial Advocacy Team. He was also a founding member of the Military Law Caucus at Penn State. While what initially drew him to Penn State was the desire for a big university experience, which he missed out on as an undergrad, Samuel noticed there was something different about Penn State Law right from the start.
“The difference between Penn State Law and every other law school I talked to in my search was that the people at Penn State cared about me,” said Samuel. “They were extremely flexible and helpful when I had to spend the summer before starting law school at Marine Officer Candidate School; they worked through everything with me, which made for a smooth transition.”
Once he was a full-time student, Samuel noted that the care and dedication of the faculty and staff, and his fellow students, never wavered. Particularly, the encouragement and guidance he received as a student in the Reserves was critical to his success. His professors and other members of the staff, which included retired Vice Admiral James W. Houck, the 41st judge advocate general of the Navy and Distinguished Scholar in Residence; and Professor Michelle Vollmer, director of the Veterans and Servicemembers Clinic, among others, all had a great influence on Samuel’s legal education, and now career as a judge advocate.
“The leadership and example of people like Admiral Houck at Penn State Law is critical to student veterans,” said Samuel. “I am so thankful to have been surrounded by the caliber of quality people that I was at Penn State Law.”
Krombach, a direct commissioned officer, took a slightly different road to become a judge advocate. He knew that he wanted to be a judge advocate, and he knew that Penn State would help him accomplish that goal.
“Penn State Law is definitely friendly to students with military aspirations, which is evident by the steady stream of judge advocates coming out of our school,” said Krombach. “Service, especially military service, is something that Penn State Law cultivates.”
Krombach also received a great deal of guidance prior to joining the Marines from Houck and Professor Samuel Thompson, who is a Marine veteran. Because he applied as a direct commission, in the midst of sequestration and the drawdown from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it took over three years for his application to be approved. Throughout the entire process and waiting period, Krombach found the insight, encouragement, and real perspective on military life he gained through these professors to be invaluable.
“Penn State, as a university, has a very well-regarded connection to service, particularly military service,” said Krombach. “The people in these recruiting positions know that and take it into account.”
Both Krombach and Samuel continue to make connections with Penn State alumni as judge advocates.
“It’s common for me to reach out to former classmates of mine who are also judge advocates if I have a question or an issue,” said Samuel. “The Penn State community is alive and active in the military.”
And while Krombach acknowledged that the road to becoming a Marine Corps judge advocate is not easy, it does represent a higher calling.
“It takes a person dedicated to the law in all its forms, and military service takes the Attorney’s Oath one step further, to the service of our country and its citizens,” said Krombach.
Krombach and Samuel are proud to be a part of the Marine Corps, an organization dedicated to the service of the country and the community, and place a great deal of emphasis on their time at Penn State Law in helping them to get to where they are.
“I absolutely love what I do,” said Samuel. “Fighting to defend the constitutional rights of Marines and Sailors who are risking their lives for our country is a tremendous honor. Semper Fidelis.”