Update: Post to open new JAG office Tuesday

Fort Benning authorities scrambled Monday to get a new Judge Advocate General’s office open for business after arson destroyed the legal service's historic building Friday night.

A new office at 7021 Ingersoll St. will be open for business Tuesday morning, officials said at a Monday press conference. They also announced that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will be leading the arson investigation with the post's Criminal Investigation Division.

A $5,000 reward is being offered. Anyone with information may call 706-545-8915 or e-mail crimetips@conus.army.mil.

The fire, which left court files in question, could have given an arsonist burns or other injuries, investigators said. The blaze was reported at 8:50 p.m. Friday. Firefighters from Columbus and Fort Benning had it under control by 1 a.m. Saturday.

No legal services are available today, though clients with questions can call 706-626-1245.

The Judge Advocate General is charged with the defense and prosecution of military law as well as advising soldiers, their families and military retirees on personal issues such as the preparation of wills and powers of attorney.

Former Staff Judge Advocate and Columbus attorney Bob Poydasheff said he’s heartbroken over the loss of the historic structure. “It was the second oldest building at Fort Benning with history upon history upon history,” Poydasheff said today. “When I saw it go up in flames I was absolutely devastated.”

The JAG building was home to a law library containing priceless pieces of military history, Poydasheff said. A huge loss was the courtroom in which William Calley was convicted of the 1968 murder of 22 Vietnamese citizens at My Lai. His conviction was overturned in 1974 in federal court in Columbus.

“It was all held here,” Poydasheff said of the Calley trial.