Ary was born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma. He received his BA from Northwestern Oklahoma State University in 1984 and his JD from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1987.
After graduating from Officer Candidates School, The Basic School, and Naval Justice School, Ary reported to the 3rd Force Service Support Group in Okinawa, Japan. In 1990, he was transferred to the 1st Force Service Support Group for the Gulf War. In 1991, he became the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate of US Marine Forces, Atlantic. In 1993, he became Head of the Law of Armed Conflict Branch in the office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy following a one-year LLM program at George Washington University Law School. In 1998, Ary became Deputy Legal Counsel to then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili. In 1999, he returned to the 1st Force Service Support Group as the Officer in Charge of Legal Teams Delta and Echo following a one-year Masters of Military Studies program at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College. From 2001 to 2004, Ary served as the Staff Judge Advocate of the 1st Force Service Support Group during Operation Iraqi Freedom. From 2004 to 2006, he served as the commanding officer of the 2nd Recruit Training Battalion in San Diego. From 2006 to 2008, he served as the Staff Judge Advocate of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. From 2008 to 2009, he served as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. He became the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps (SJA to CMC) in 2009.
Major General Ary assumed his duties as SJA to CMC at a time when the Marine Corps and the Navy were under intense Congressional scrutiny for their management of judge advocate assets and their processing of post-trial courts-martial. This scrutiny led to two inquiries: one by the Department of Defense Inspector General and another by a congressionally appointed panel (the “506 Panel”).
Confronted by these challenges, Major General Ary immediately analyzed the structure, resource allocation, increasingly complex nature of courts-martial practice, and operational tempo, and decided upon a course to enhance the delivery of legal support throughout the Marine Corps.
He first identified the need for the Marine Corps legal community to develop and implement a long-term, strategic plan. He established a Strategic Action Plan Development Group composed of experienced Marine judge advocates, legal administrative officers, and senior enlisted personnel, and charged them with re-analyzing current legal requirements and improving the legal support provided to Marine Corps commanders, individual Marines, Sailors, and their families. The resulting Legal Services Strategic Action Plan 2010-2015 was published in the summer of 2010. This publication provided a detailed overview of the Marine Corps legal community’s mission, role, and organizational structure; assessed mission performance, included an analysis of procedural, structural, and doctrinal strengths and weaknesses; identified threats facing the legal community and outlined opportunities for improvement; outlined the strategic vision for the future of the legal community; established an action plan to implement the strategic vision; and created an effective process to evaluate and assess the legal community’s progress.
To ensure timely and accurate post-trial processing, Major General Ary implemented the Case Management System (CMS) in 2010, a Marine Corps-wide single common court-martial tracking system. CMS provides complete visibility at all levels of command on all courts-martial from the initial request for legal services through the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals final review.
In 2011, Major General Ary reorganized the Judge Advocate Division establishing a second Deputy Director position responsible for Community Development, Strategy, and Plans (CDSP). The CDSP branch now sets standards for the Marine Corps legal community, develops training and equipment to help the community meet those standards, and creates metrics by which those standards can be inspected. The CDSP branch also performs long-term strategic planning for the legal community and has the lead on developing future doctrine for the provision of legal support within the Marine Corps.
Also in 2011, Major General Ary directed the reorganization of the legal defense community into the Marine Corps Defense Services Organization (DSO). Creation of the DSO, led by the Chief Defense Counsel of the Marine Corps, increased the autonomy of the defense bar and enabled the defense community to professionalize, which created a true community of practice, that can better address matters unique to defending Marines.
In 2012, based on Major General Ary’s advice, the CMC determined action was required to improve the organizational structure and processes related to the delivery of legal support in the Marine Corps. Major General Ary focused the reorganization to provide for greater levels of individual proficiency, organizational efficiency, and institutional accountability. Central to this reorganization was regionalization. During the summer of 2012, the Marine Corps replaced 16 stove-piped law offices with 4 regional Legal Services Support Sections (LSSSs) and 9 subordinate Legal Services Support Teams (LSSTs). Consolidation of all legal services into these 4 LSSSs, which affected over 49 different commands and over 800 active, reserve and civilian billets, significantly improved the quality, timeliness, and uniformity of the delivery of legal services. To further enhance the capabilities of the regional LSSSs, Major General Ary introduced Highly Qualified Experts, military criminal investigators, Marine paralegals and administrative personnel (primary military occupational specialty (PMOS) 0111) to the LSSS, while reducing overall numbers of enlisted personnel, to address the complexity of courts-martial litigation and increase the effectiveness in the execution of the legal support mission.
Major General Ary retired in July 2014.
On September 30, 2014, Ary was appointed Convening Authority for Guantanamo Military Commissions and to the companion post of Director of the Office of Military Commissions. These are technically civilian posts. General Ary submitted his resignation as the Convening Authority for military commissions effective March 21, 2015. His designated interim replacement is the Honorable Paul L. Oostburg Sanz, who had been serving as general counsel for the Department of the Navy
In an op-ed in the New York Times former Guantanamo Chief Prosecutor Morris D. Davis lamented the seemingly continuous change within the convening authority's office.