Local deputy prosecutor serves in more ways than one

Michael Winchester helps set up the Tactical operations center May 25 at the national training center at Fort Irwin, Calif.

In Jefferson County, people may know Michael Winchester as the area’s deputy prosecutor. But Winchester isn’t in the county right now, and at Fort Irwin National Training Center in California, he goes by the title of captain.

Winchester joined the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, or JAG, a little more than two years ago, and now splits his time between his duties as county deputy prosecutor and captain.

Being a member of the army — and the JAG Corps — as part of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team is a different kind of service than acting as deputy prosecutor, Winchester said. Members of the JAG Corps deal with military justice and military law.

“It’s a different area of law, different people, but it’s still a way to give back to the Idaho community,” the deputy prosecutor turned army captain said.

Although Winchester is relatively new to the JAG, he is not new to the military. He said he first enlisted in the Marine Corps the day of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He said that the timing was sheer coincidence, and that he was in the middle of the enlistment process when the attacks occurred.

“That was the date they could get me over there, so I went over on the 10th … and I was sworn in on the 11th,” Winchester said. “I was getting my eyes checked when the second tower fell.”

Winchester started in the Marine Corps in 2002 and continued to serve through 2010. After leaving, though, it turned out he could not stay away.

“I decided I missed the military,” he said. “(The National Guard) is a second job, it’s interesting.”

The former Marine said his current JAG duties provide variety in his life, giving him the opportunity to help soldiers write their wills and sometimes advise them with pending lawsuits, along with other duties.

“It’s like military human relations,” he said.

When Winchester decided he might want to join JAG, his boss was not only supportive, but excited for him, Winchester said.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Butikofer himself is a veteran of JAG, and was stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington. Butikofer said he encourages Winchester’s service, even though his being gone means extra work.

“He joined the Army National Guard JAG unit that I used to be in,” Butikofer said. “So he did that with my full support and encouragement.”

Winchester is among more than 500 eastern Idahoans participating in a nearly month-long training at the California training center, and Winchester said he is not the only one from Jefferson County.

“We’ve got some really good soldiers,” Winchester said, referring to men and women from the community.

Winchester said while he enjoys his work in the army, he is looking forward to returning home around the end of the month.

“In the brigade, they still talk about how supportive Jefferson County was when the guys got back in 2005,” he said. “So, it’s a really good place to be from and an even better place to go back to.”