Legal office provides wide array of services

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shane Dunaway
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Whether they're notarizing wills and powers of attorney, reviewing Articles 15 or providing trusted counsel to wing leaders on key legal issues, the staff at the 36th Wing legal office plays a pivotal role in ensuring Andersen's i's are dotted and t's are crossed.

The office, consisting of more than a dozen staff members, assists all active-duty and reserve military members, dependents, civilians and retirees.

"The spectrum we look at is very broad," said Lt. Col. Kristine Kijek, 36th Wing staff judge advocate. "Our mission is to give legal advice to commanders, first sergeants and clients who need assistance."

Andersen's legal office is divided into three main sections: administrative law, adverse actions and military justice. The office also hosts an environmental and real property law section, as well as labor law, contracts, and civilian prosecution sections, all run by judge advocates and civilian attorneys.

Admin law focuses on a variety of legal matters, including legal assistance, the tax program, claims, civil law and ethics. Conducting juvenile correctional boards also falls within the scope of admin law.

Tech. Sgt. Beatriz Webb, 36th Wing noncommissioned officer in charge of admin law, manages training programs for the legal office, provides victim/witness assistance and initial reviews on fundraiser packages and assists with any legal matters falling under the Law of Armed Conflict, professional and unprofessional relationships and legal readiness.

"I enjoy helping people and seeing the results from assisting them with any legal matters they may have," Sergeant Webb said. "I also enjoy seeing the difference in juveniles after our boards."

After a package is initially reviewed, Capt. Bryant Bair, a 36th Wing assistant staff judge advocate, conducts a final review of packages processed through admin law. Captain Bair also assists clients on legal assistance matters and provides legal advice on ethics and fiscal issues, support agreements, private organizations, FOIA and Privacy Act issues, IG investigations, claims, and health care issues, showcasing the flexibility often exhibited by the legal office staff.

In the adverse actions and military justice sections, staff members advise on investigations and prepare disciplinary actions to be taken against military members, including Letters of Reprimand, Article 15s and courts-martial. All the military attorneys prosecute courts-martial in addition to their normal work load.

Airman 1st Class Sasha Rodriguez, 36th Wing military justice paralegal, carries hefty responsibilities within the legal office. Her day-to-day duties include processing Article 15s, managing jurisdiction requests downtown, assisting attorneys with witness interviews and trial preparation, and ensuring active cases are kept updated in the legal office's database.

Airman Rodriguez assists coworkers in her section not only with base-level Article 15s, but Numbered Air Force-level actions as well. Brig. Gen. Phil Ruhlman, 36th Wing commander, also holds the role of general court-martial convening authority, a responsibility that is unique to a select few wing commanders in the Air Force.

"We are our own higher headquarters," Airman Rodriguez said. "[Handling the issue here] is much faster than sending an Article 15 up to numbered Air Force-level and waiting for it to be reviewed. It makes our job easier and enables us to be more self-sufficient."

Working in military justice and adverse actions can be demanding, but Colonel Kijek expressed confidence in her most junior staff member.

"Airman Rodriguez is a great example of a pipeline student who comes straight [into the career field] and she's [currently] in upgrade training," Colonel Kijek said. "That in itself in this career field is extremely demanding. We put her into a section that isn't fully manned [due to deployments] and she is left with responsibilities that would typically be given to a staff or tech [sergeant]."

Though it may seem difficult to shoulder the daily workload with an undermanned staff, Colonel Kijek insists her attorneys and paralegals are top notch.

"We've got a great staff here that is dedicated to getting the mission accomplished," Colonel Kijek said. "I think we do have some additional challenges here with the joint region as well as having deployed Airmen who bring different legal issues to us [for resolution]. Our staff here deals with a lot of unique issues that they wouldn't otherwise encounter."