Two Dreams At Once
By Kelley Bruss
Andy Pascual ’02 lives a double life.
He is both a prosecutor and a defender, a civilian and a soldier.
He is Alejandro V. Pascual IV, a first-generation American, the son of Filipino immigrants. But he’s also the third generation to serve with the United States military.
He has tried and won felony cases in federal courtrooms and advised on the legality of military strikes in the Middle East.
By day, Pascual is an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Georgia. But part of his life also belongs to the Georgia Army National Guard, in which Maj. Pascual supervises the Trial Defense Service, the arm of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps that represents soldiers facing military justice or disciplinary proceedings, including administrative separations.
“Combining both of my dreams,” Pascual says. “How do I get to do both? I’m so blessed and so lucky.”
When U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine was State Judge Advocate for the Georgia Guard, Pascual reported to him as both a civilian and a soldier. Christine knew Pascual from military court and was eager to bring him on when there was an opening in the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“He has a sense of purpose and diligence that makes him special,” Christine says.
People have been seeing that in Pascual for years.
Thanks to a dual-enrollment program at his Georgia high school, Pascual entered Furman with two years of college credits. He came on a music scholarship, planning to graduate early with a double major in music and chemistry/premed.
Instead, the dual credits ended up giving him additional freedom to explore for a full four years.
Lloyd Benson, a history professor and Pascual’s academic adviser, says Pascual did what every student should: “Look at the curriculum and try to make it make sense on your own terms.”
College wasn’t only about pursuing a skill set; it was about developing as a whole person.
“There’s a sort of organic inquisitiveness that he brought,” Benson says.
Pascual shifted from chemistry to biology, which led to an internship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. That left him wondering whether he really wanted to be a doctor. And while he was a member of Furman Singers all four years, he knew music wouldn’t be his career.
“I’ll cut everything and just do what I love – history,” he decided. He wasn’t sure what he’d do with his degree, but “at least I’ll be happy.”
Benson suggested The Gettysburg Semester, an immersion in Civil War studies at Gettysburg College.
The experience confirmed Pascual’s decision to study history. It was his mother, a paralegal, who suggested an internship at a small personal injury firm.
“Law was something she saw in me because I like to argue,” he says with a smile.
How he became hooked
At Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law, Pascual began to participate in mock trial, and his future came into focus.
“If you want to do trials, you want to do criminal law, and that’s either prosecution or defense,” Pascual says.
As a trial intern with a prosecutor’s office during his third year of law school, he was sworn in and had the chance to lead a case against an inmate who struck a deputy during a prison riot. Pascual won. “I was hooked,” he says.
He wanted to be a district attorney and he wanted to get back to Georgia. He got both wishes as an assistant DA with the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, based in Pickens County, Georgia. While there, he traveled a three-county circuit, working a few dozen trials in the first year alone.
“That was where I was honing my jury skills,” Pascual says.
He held two other assistant DA positions, both closer to the Atlanta area where he’d grown up. And he enjoyed the work. But in the back of his mind, Pascual’s love of military history and the examples of his father and great-grandfather kept whispering that there might still be more.
A family tradition
Pascual’s father was a combat engineer in the U.S. Army. He received his U.S. citizenship while serving in the 1970s.
“I’ve truly embraced both American history and Filipino history as my own,” Pascual says.
But the family ties to the U.S. military began decades before his father’s service. Pascual’s great-grandfather fought with the U.S. during World War II. He was a Philippine Scout and was taken prisoner, surviving the notorious Bataan Death March.
The recent discovery of his military ID, which included both his rank and service number, gave Pascual what he needed to request service records from the National Archives.
He hoped for a few pages and some dates.
What he got was 400 pages – “everything I wanted to know and more” – detailing a career that began in 1914 and culminated in the U.S. Army Forces Far East. His great-grandfather retired in 1947 after serving more than 30 years.
Pascual’s own journey began in 2012 when he was commissioned to join the National Guard’s JAG Corps and began work with the Trial Defense Service. TDS lawyers represent soldiers facing charges for military violations, so the work doesn’t conflict with his civilian prosecutions. Pascual was recently promoted to major and supervises the TDS.
He purposely chose the state branch over the U.S. Army Reserves.
“I like the fact that it’s the Georgia Army National Guard,” he says. “We truly are citizen soldiers.”
Pascual deployed to Kuwait in 2014 as an operational law attorney. He served with U.S. Army Central and advised a three-star general on the rules of engagement for attacks on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. His job was to ensure that the hundreds of strikes he oversaw complied with the Geneva Conventions.
“It’s still surreal that I’m part of the Army,” he says. “I was in the choir, I was out of shape, I don’t like bugs, I don’t like the woods.”
‘The big leagues’
Pascual and his wife, Carrie, loved having their children growing up close to their Atlanta-area relatives. But the opening in the U.S. Attorney’s office, based in Augusta, Georgia, was too appealing to resist. Pascual took his current position in 2018.
Federal prosecution is “the big leagues,” he says. There are more laws in play and the cases are significant – NSA leaks, drug deals, gangs, Medicare fraud.
Christine, the U.S. attorney, says Pascual is gifted at the complex work.
“He can take really disparate facts and understand a situation holistically,” Christine says.
Pascual describes his younger self as zealous. But experience has matured his views. For example, as the child of legal immigrants, he once saw immigration in black and white. He sees difficult situations with more empathy now.
A prosecutor’s power and responsibility, he says, should be used to simultaneously protect society and the rights of the defendant.
“We’re pursuing truth and justice,” he says. “What is the right resolution in each case?”
Some of the people Pascual has prosecuted have been sentenced to life in prison. Others, he hopes, have had life-changing wake-up calls.
“Being able to have a role in shaping public safety – it’s all I’ve ever done,” he says. “And I’ve taken that responsibility seriously.”