Memorial Day is set aside for gratitude and remembrance, particularly of the military men and women who have sacrificed for the rest of us.
Some people don’t need to be reminded.
One of them is Stephen Schemenauer, a partner at Stinson with an active litigation and appellate practice in business and government issues. He also is an Army colonel currently serving as the Brigade Commander for the 347th Regional Support Group, Minnesota Army National Guard.
He is three weeks shy of 28 years of service, including combat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq where he was awarded two Bronze Stars, a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and an Army Commendation Medal.
Schemenauer has also been awarded the Order of St. Maurice and the Knowlton Award for excellence in the Infantry and Military Intelligence fields, and he is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College. He also holds a Top Secret / Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance.
Schemenauer’s gratitude also extends beyond Memorial Day. “I cannot expressed how blessed I am to have the opportunity to serve in many ways. I’ve been extremely fortunate to balance two careers, family, board work. None of that is possible without everyone’s support. My family, the firm and clients are incredibly supportive. My soldiers continue to provide me opportunities to grow as leader,” he told Minnesota Lawyer.
The 347th RSG has “a pretty big footprint,” said Schemenauer, with members all over the state from Austin to Duluth. It deployed a detachment to Kuwait in January and sent a casualty liaison team to Afghanistan in May 2019. An acquisition team will deploy to Afghanistan in July. Last year also saw several deployments, with soldiers returning in November.
It can be painful to send soldiers to a place like Afghanistan. The 347th RSG soldiers will serve with units out of the Kandahar and Bagram areas. Kandahar is a province in the southeast of Afghaanistan, on the border with Pakistan. Bagram is in the Parwan Province, and is home to the Bagram Airfield, said to be the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan.
Schemenauer knows firsthand that Afghanistan is a dangerous country since he spent a year there in 2004-2005 supporting provincial reconstruction teams in country. “We provided security and help the local governments rebuild,” he explained. In Afghanistan, “the threat level is high, and the living conditions are austere. There’s always a risk to soldiers,” he said.
The support network provided by family, colleagues and clients is key to making a deployment work, Schemenauer said. He also went to Iraq for a year in 2009 to 2010. Communication can be sporadic. When Schemenauer went to Iraq, Stinson provided him with a satellite phone that made a big difference.
Stinson has also been known to send care packages of snack food, books, magazines and the like. It also provided periodic case updates. “Stinson has a great team. They are great supporters of what I do,” Schemenauer said.
Also providing great support are his clients, Schemenauer continued. “The greatest part of this story is the clients. People have perception that clients would shy away from somebody in the military. I have found just the opposite,” he said. Lawyers work as a team on cases and there are lawyers available to the clients if he gets called up, he noted.
But in many ways Schemenauer’s two careers are congruent. “The parallels [between the law practice and the military] are astounding,” he said. They include providing practical advice, assessing acceptable risk, accomplishing a mission, and generating creative solutions and complex strategies, he said.
From a more detailed perspective, Schemenauer’s practice includes cyber security and government contracts and investigations. He also chairs the firm’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Autonomous Vehicles practice group and the Veterans’ Employee Resource Group. He has worked with the state’s cyber protection team through the Guard that will provide expertise in case of an attack or other network failure. The National Guard plans to deploy cyber protection teams in 23 states by the end of 2019.
Schemenauer’s practice also includes pro bono work through the Children’s Law Center, the Volunteer Lawyer’s Network, the Hennepin County ADR program, and the State Public Defender’s Office. He is also a member of the board of directors for the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, and he is the chairman of the board for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans.