An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Pope Paralegal supports special operations

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Adam Crown
  • 43rd Airlift Group Public Affairs
The Paralegal Career Field encompasses functions relating to military justice, including court reporting, administrative boards reporting, accident and collateral investigations, depositions, and other legal proceedings. That mission is never more important than when they are deployed.

Tech. Sgt. Dwayne Bell, 43rd Airlift Group Judge Advocate Paralegal, recently returned from a deployment from Kabul Compound, Afghanistan. This gave him the opportunity to perform duties he wouldn't have had the chance to stateside.

While stationed at Pope, Sergeant Bell's responsibilities entail supporting the installation. This includes filing claims and drafting powers of attorney and wills. When he was deployed to Afghanistan, his responsibilities changed drastically.

"I would do a lot of financial review, which was probably our biggest tasker," said Sergeant Bell. "Like the Commanders Emergency Response Program fund that supports humanitarian projects such as building water purification plants, that's a billion dollar account. We also had our own projects that were funded by higher headquarters."

One humanitarian project Sergeant Bell assisted with required him to visit a local village to survey the site with contractors. The project involved placing five wells in the village that would provide its residents with clean drinking water. The $250,000 project was one of many that took Sergeant Bell outside the wire to interact with host nation civilians.

"Being a paralegal you spend a lot of time at your desk," said Sergeant Bell. "The most unexpected part of this deployment for me was the travel. I did 104 convoys during the seven months I was deployed."

CERP projects weren't the only situations that would take Sergeant Bell outside the wire, he would also conduct investigations.

"While deployed, especially since I was supporting special operations, I would investigate different types of allegations," said Sergeant Bell. "We would go out and talk to people, it's was strictly data gathering."

Sergeant Bell would then take all the information gathered during the investigation and piece together the whole story for review. However, he would not do all of this on his own. Sergeant Bell would be part of a team comprised of subject matter experts in areas that were necessary to the investigation.

"I might conduct the investigation with Military Intelligence, Army Criminal Investigation Command, Air Force Office of Special Investigations," said Sergeant Bell. "A paralegal or attorney from the Afghan army would participate in the investigation with us. The relationship with the Afghans was great."

On one occasion Sergeant Bell was meeting with tribal leaders of a village and having tea. The room was just an open space with cushions all around the walls, he explained.

"Then the youngest of the Afghan children gets up and leaves, when he came back he had a tray of cups filled with milk straight from whatever animal was available," said Sergeant Bell. "They were extremely hospitable and the work was rewarding."

Sergeant Bell also had an opportunity to work with other Afghan individuals in the same building on base and was able to learn about their culture. For example, they talk with great intensity about daily activities and are very animated, explained Sergeant Bell.

"On previous deployments I didn't work as closely with the host nation," said Sergeant Bell. "There were five Afghans down the hall from me. When they say there is a partnership towards the same goals, they really mean it."

According to Lt. Col. John Smith, 43rd Airlift Group Staff Judge Advocate, he believes Sergeant Bell's dedication to the Air Force directly represents the good work he does here at Pope Field and translates into the excellent job he did while deployed.

"It is no surprise to me that Sergeant Bell does the same extraordinary work for deployed members as he does for those at home station," said Colonel Smith. "We are glad to have him back."