Lawyer Serves SEAL Team in Afghanistan

Bearkats serving in Afghanistan hold up the SHSU flag.
Bearkats in Afghanistan include (l-r) Lt. Comm. Eric Pedersen, Lt. Morgan Luttrell, and Lt. Col. Dan Monsiveas.

As a Judge Advocate in the Navy, Alumnus Lt. Commander Eric Pedersen was embedded with Navy SEAL Team TEN in the waining days of American involvement in Afghanistan as the Team's sole legal advisor.

“It was a challenging environment, to say the least,” said Pedersen. “I was providing training for the SEAL Team and supporting them with and legal advice on the Rules of Engagement, Law of Armed Conflict, and detainee and evidence handling. Plenty of times during operations, it was on-the-spot legal advice.”

Pedersen was assigned to SEAL Team TEN in Afghanistan.
“I also met with Afghan judges and prosecutors to learn the Afghan legal system, and I worked with local Afghan prosecutors to help them with their cases against captured Taliban insurgents,” he added. “We wanted to make sure that justice was served.”

During his deployment from April 2013 – January 2014, Pedersen worked with the executive leadership for SEAL Team TEN, which oversaw a 1,500 person task force covering 10 provinces in Afghanistan. SEAL Team TEN became famous in 2005 when Marcus Luttrell, another SHSU graduate, became the lone survivor when his unit of four Navy SEALs was gunned down during Operation Red Wing. Ironically, Luttrell’s brother Morgan, served with Pedersen during his tour of duty and the two became fast friends.

Pedersen practices at the range in Afghanistan.
Pedersen practiced at the range in Afghanistan.

“We went to school at the same time, ran in the same circles and belonged to rival fraternities, but our paths never crossed at Sam Houston State University,” said Pedersen. “Now we are good friends.”

For his outstanding efforts in Afghanistan, Pedersen recently was presented the Award of Merit by the Washington State Bar Association, the highest honor bestowed by the statewide legal organization. Following his deployment, Pedersen returned to his job as Assistant Chief Counsel for the Department of Homeland Security in Seattle, where he is the National Security-designated Trial Attorney handling immigration cases, criminal cases, customs and import/export issues. He remains an active member of the Naval Reserves.

[Pedersen] has always been one of those officers you meet and just know will succeed in whatever challenge he faces,” said Capt. Daniel Jones, JAG Corps, U.S. Navy, Staff Judge Advocate, RCC Northwest. “He is an excellent attorney and naval officer, and the NW JAG community and I couldn’t be more proud of Eric and all he has accomplished.”
Pedersen credits Navy SEAL Team TEN with winning that award.

Pedersen received the Award of Merit from the Washington State Bar Association.
Pedersen received the Award of Merit from the Washington State Bar Association.
“It is, of course, an honor to be recognized along with the inspirational people who have received this award before me,” said Pedersen. “The award itself, though, was the result of a bigger team effort. It belongs to everyone at SEAL Team TEN and the Naval Special Warfare community as well.”

Pedersen graduated from Sam Houston State University in 1996 with a degree in criminal justice, and a strong minor in speech communications. His sights were always on law school and, after graduating from Gonzaga University School of Law, he joined the Navy JAG Corps During his active duty service from 2001-2009, he was involved in a wide variety of assignments, including as atrainer instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynnco, GA., as a prosecutor of criminal cases, as an lawyer for Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), as a Legal Advisor for the Department of Defense Criminal Investigation Task Force, investigating suspected Al Qaeda detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, and as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting crimes committed by civilians on military bases.

Navy JAG SealAt FLETC, Pedersen provide legal courses for new agents on such issues as search and seizure, interrogation techniques, and international investigations. As a prosecutor, he handled criminal cases in the military ranging from attempted murder, , theft, fraud, drug use and sexual assault

Pedersen obtained his Masters in Law (LLM) from Georgetown University, with an emphasis on National Security Law.

Pedersen said that SHSU gave him a good foundation for his career, particularly by offering real world experience. He served at the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office for his internship and was on the SHSU Debate team for two years. He was also the co-founder of Phi Alpha Delta, a pre-law student organization at the College of Criminal Justice and a proud member of Alpha Tau

Pedersen with wife Heather (Nyman), who he met at SHSU.
Pedersen with wife Heather (Nyman), who he met at SHSU.
“The College of Criminal Justice gave me the opportunity to learn from the premier-criminal justice faculty in the world,” Pedersen said.
Pedersen also credits SHSU with introducing him to his wife of 16 years, Heather (Nyman) Pedersen, who earned a degree in Bilingual Elementary Education from SHSU.

“Sam Houston State is also where I met my wife of 16 years. “(She) and I met at an ATO party during college. We graduated, got married and moved across the country so I could start law school.” Pedersen and his wife reside in the Seattle area, with their two children, Gregory and Abigail.

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