Education & Experience

Major Gloria A. Downey, Retired, USAF JAG Corps


Major Gloria A. Downey was medically retired from the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the United States Air Force in May 2009. Prior to her retirement, she was hand-selected by the Judge Advocate General of the United Sates Air Force to fill a highly sought after Senior Defense Counsel position. Her last assignment before retirement was as an Assistant Staff Judge Advocate for the 435th Air Base Wing law office at Ramstein AB, Germany. Major Downey served as the Chief of Litigation while also filling a variety of other roles including Deputy Staff Judge Advocate and working with junior trial counsel as the Senior Litigation Attorney. While assigned to Ramstein Air Base, then-Captain Downey deployed to Baghdad in 2007 where she prosecuted insurgents in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq.

Major Downey was very actively involved in the military’s sexual assault crisis and response, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney. As a prosecutor, Major Downey: created sexual assault prevention seminars for dormitory residents which were benchmarked by the Air Force and the Department of Defense; was appointed to respond to a high level inquiry by the Department of Defense regarding the prosecution and defense of sexual assault allegations in the military; and was the driving force behind expanding rape prosecutions to include cases of rape based on psychological force alone. As a defense attorney, Major Downey developed and disseminated a new strategy for overcoming rape shield laws in appropriate cases.

Major Downey’s other JAG assignments were as the Area Defense Counsel at Osan Air Base, Republic of South Korea where she represented hundreds of military members through all aspects of their military justice actions including dozens of courts-martial and discharge boards. Major Downey was competitively selected to this position while serving as Senior Litigation Attorney and Chief of Military Justice at Travis AFB, California. In these roles, Major Downey served as an “in-house” circuit trial counsel for the 60th Air Mobility Wing legal office assisting trial counsel in the preparation and prosecution of military justice cases while also performing duties as the Chief of Military Justice, overseeing the base’s entire criminal and disciplinary program.

Major Downey was commissioned as a Judge Advocate in 2002. Prior to being commissioned as a JAG, she served as an Assistant Public Defender in Ocala, Florida and Miami, Florida. She worked on all levels of the Florida criminal justice system including felony, misdemeanor, juvenile and traffic divisions. During her four years as a public defender, she represented thousands of indigent clients facing criminal prosecution. Major Downey was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1997, after graduating from the University of Miami School of Law in 1996 and the University of Florida, with a focus on Political Science and Sociology, in 1993. Climbing up and out of the poverty and disillusionment of the life she was born into, Major Downey received her GED at 16 years old, after completing only the eighth grade, then attended and graduated from Broward Community College at 18 years old, earning entry into her state’s flagship university.

While deployed to Baghdad, Major Downey was injured during multiple mortar and rocket attacks, rendering her unfit for further military service. Despite her pending medical retirement, Major Downey’s supervision pressed for her promotion to Major in recognition of her outstanding service.  Major Downey was permanently retired as a Major in May 2009. Major Downey became a member of the California Bar in May 2009; she lives in California. Due to the limitations of her physical and emotional injuries, Major Downey now only practices law on a Pro Bono basis.

In 2015, Major Downey earned her Master of Fine Arts in Directing from Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA and now works to share her unique experiences with the world through the medium of filmmaking. Her thesis film, Forgive Me Father, has received numerous honors and has been included in several film festivals. Major Downey is now pursuing a Master of Arts in Screenwriting and is working on a feature film script encapsulating her personal war experiences in Iraq and the devastating impact the failures by the Air Force and the VA have had on her life since her deployment. 

Major Downey is currently working on the first two episodes of the Women of War Series - a documentary film series dedicated to the universal experience of all Women of War.