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Legal Eagles: Pope's finest in legal advice

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Todd Wivell
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
You have just been notified that you are deploying in two months to Kabul, Afghanistan for a 180-day deployment. What are you going to do about your lease? Who is going to pay your rent? What if someone needs to access your military pay account? 

Your windshield was smashed by an errant golf ball. How do you file a claim? 

You've been the victim of a crime and the Airman responsible is refusing to make restitution. What can the Air Force do to help you? 

Not only does the 43rd Airlift Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate take care of these issues but they are here to offer so much more for individuals with a valid military identification to include dependents of military members and retirees. The attorneys and paralegals from the legal office offer legal advice, prepare wills, powers of attorney, notary services and assistance in a variety of legal matters. In addition, the office is also responsible for administering and prosecuting courts-martial and assisting commanders with various administrative actions including support for Article 15 procedures and administrative discharges for Pope Airmen. 

Airman 1st Class Amber Morton is a Paralegal Apprentice assigned to the office and is one of the legal professionals who can help with a variety of issues. Airman Morton said she has loved thinking about the law and legal issues since she was a little girl and to work as a paralegal is thrilling to her. Every day she gets the opportunity to assist the attorneys with military justice issues including the administration and preparation for courts martial and various other details in an effort to make and keep Pope safe and free of criminal activity. 

In an effort to provide preventative measures, the legal office also wants to make sure Airmen understand limits and jurisdictional information by providing Article 137 briefings at the First Term Airman's Center and before each reenlistment said Tech. Sgt. Angela Brown, NCOIC of Adverse Actions. "This briefing provides Airmen with the explanation of many of the articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice." It is intended to ensure Airmen know they are subject to military discipline at all times whether on base or off. 

Although both members work in the legal office, they work in different arenas. Sergeant Brown oversees all of the administrative adverse actions on Pope and typically deals with First Sergeants while Airman Morton works on cases heading toward court. While both deal with disciplinary actions, every case is different. It's the differences in offense and the accused which drives the Commander's decision on how to handle incidents. 

Sergeant Brown described a typical day at work which consisted of assisting Pope Commanders and First Sergeants with Article 15 (nonjudicial punishment) actions and administrative discharges by preparing and reviewing necessary documents. She ensures all actions are administered in a fair and timely fashion, and that the process is continually moving from the beginning to the end. "My job satisfaction comes from knowing that I assisted leadership in maintaining good order and discipline at Pope," said Sergeant Brown. 

Airman Morton described her typical day at work as working through various legal problems, referring to all her checklists for upcoming court cases and helping prepare a case for trial whether that means arranging for witness travel or helping an attorney conduct interviews. Each step is crucial to ensuring proper procedures are being followed and the rights of the accused and the Air Force to a fair trial are respected. 

As both members are vital to the operations of the legal office there are still others who are just as important and assist with other legal aspects such as filing claims for movement of household goods damage, providing notary services and legal assistance on myriad legal matters. 

When it comes to preparing wills both Airman Morton and Sergeant Brown said that it is basically a simple process. After an interview with the client, the attorney prepares the will and then schedules an appointment for the client to return within a week to sign the will. The will is then handed over to the client for safe keeping. This is one of the most important and easiest steps an Airman can take whether they are deploying or simply driving around town. 

"Every function we perform is important and the day-to-day advice we provide may be critical to that particular issue whether it's an environmental or labor problem or providing legal assistance to an Airman with a landlord-tenant concern," said the Staff Judge Advocate, Lt. Col. Don Eller. "However, I believe our support and advice to Commanders, First Sergeants and supervisors in furtherance of the maintenance of good order and discipline is undoubtedly the most important thing we do. As George Washington stated, 'Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.'"