Sarah Gage ’01

April 1, 2011Duke Law News

After years of accepting various full-time assignments in the Army Reserve, such as a 2009 posting as a Northeast Asia Counter-Drug Analyst in Hawaii, U.S. Army Captain Sarah Gage '01 volunteered for active duty early last year because, she says, she finally felt prepared to serve in the Middle East.

Speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan, where she has been posted since April 2010, Gage tracks how the Taliban and terrorist groups are financed. A military intelligence officer, she currently works as an analyst with the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, a collaborative initiative involving personnel from the U.S. military, Drug Enforcement Agency, Treasury Department, and the Department of State.  She also is an information collection manager.  “I ask for the information we want in the proper way through the appropriate people and channels, and then I filter what we get back. It’s information in, information out,” she says.

Of the assignment, which supports both the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and the U.S. Embassy, she adds, “It is a very rewarding and enjoyable position.” One element of her current deployment she finds particularly enjoyable is its fusion of military and non-military personnel, she says. 

Among her most memorable challenges:  giving a five-minute briefing to Gen. David Petreus, the top military commander in Afghanistan.  “It was an unforgettable experience,” she says.

Gage, a Chardon, Ohio, native who graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1997, joined the Army Reserve in 1998 and worked briefly as a paralegal to get a better feel for the field of law. In 1999, she sought a law degree, choosing Duke Law on the recommendations of an uncle who was an alumnus and cousins who were students at the time. She benefited enormously, she says, from the mentorship of her small-section professor, Robinson Everett, a former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. 

“Having Professor Everett was fortuitous for me,” she recalls.  “He helped me get an internship with the JAG Corps my first year, which led to the realization that I didn’t want to go into the Corps but I still wanted to be an Army officer.”  Judge advocates, she explains, are largely litigators, while her interests leaned towards regulatory law.  Everett helped her sort out her options, she says.  In fact, following her Duke Law graduation Gage practiced briefly at Cohen & Grigsby in Pittsburgh — a “military friendly” firm that employed several reservists — before leaving to take full-time Army assignments. 

Military intelligence suits both her training and interests, Gage says. “The same skills used in law can be used in analysis — finding and exploring information. That’s what I enjoy.”

An avid traveler who has competed in Ultimate Frisbee competitions across Asia and the South Pacific, Gage has spent most of the time between Army assignments in recent years traveling in Europe and living in South Korea, where she was assigned, briefly, in 2002. 

After that assignment, she stayed, accepting occasional Army assignments and traveling throughout Asia and Europe in between. It was in South Korea that she discovered her love of teaching.

“I like to say I went to Korea for 47 days and stayed for six and a half years,” says Gage. Taking a break from full-time military orders, she first taught advance-placement economics at a prestigious high school.  She also taught English conversation in middle and elementary schools and critical thinking, law and society, and academic writing at a university outside Seoul.  The experience uncovered a latent love for teaching.

“I’d been interested in teaching since I was a kid,” she says. “But by the time I got ready to go to college, my parents, both of whom are teachers, convinced me that it was a bad idea.”  Gage, who left South Korea in early 2009 after that country’s currency crash, received her master’s in education in 2009 from Walden University and is considering teaching as one stateside option. 

Ten years after her Duke Law graduation, Gage thinks Everett would be pleased with her contributions through Army service.  She warmly remembers his influence. 

“We weren’t in touch since I bounce around so much, but I never forgot how important he was to so many,” she says.  In an online tribute following Everett's death in 2009, she wrote: “Through his shared wisdom and advice, not only on the law but also on the military, he positively impacted the lives of countless students. His unstinting support of those of us who were in the military as students will not be forgotten.”

-Debbie Selinsky
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