Guard JAGs prove to be powerhouse in protecting, maintaining and caring for Airmen

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond
  • 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
With a 72-hour notice, an Air Guardsman can shed their civilian status and respond to a homeland or federal military mission. Such an expedient turnover requires sound preparation and a supportive foundation.

A Guardsman's training, tactics and toughness are imperative, but futile in the absence of the proper administrative bedrock. Mission excellence, Air Force compliance and Airmen wellbeing rely on powers behind the scenes to make missions materialize -- one such unobtrusive, yet imperative force is the legal office.

"I've used the legal office here primarily for pre-deployment assistance, but they've helped me out with personal legal questions, as well," said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Stern, a 111th Security Forces Squadron security specialist. "Having those legal services available for Guardsmen is a critical part in being effective at both home station and the deployed environment."

Stern said that addressing and reconciling legal matters allows members to concentrate on their jobs. When Guardsmen are relieved of that distraction, they are postured for mission excellence.

But a Guardsman's legal office offers more than peace of mind; they also work in a preventative capacity.

Capt. Hilary Styer, the full-time 111th Attack Wing judge advocate here, says meeting Air Force compliance goes hand-in-hand with Air Force jurisprudence. To Styer, being the Wing's judge advocate is about keeping members out of trouble and referring them toward lawful decisions.

"The most important part of what I do is to make sure everyone follows the laws and regulations," said Styer. "[Judge advocates] keep people out of trouble."

And for a Guard judge advocate like Styer, this can get complicated.

"We have an interesting dynamic in the Guard is; in addition to Air Force regulations, we have both state and federal law to follow."

Styer's efforts ensure the wellness of Guardsmen in three aspects of legal advice: civil, personal and legal. She noted that while active-duty Air Force legal offices have a judge advocate dedicated to the individual jurisprudential components, the ANG boasts one member for all three.

Contributing to Airmen wellness ranges from advising Wing leadership to assisting lower-ranking Airmen.

Styer gave examples: "We provide documents such as wills, powers of attorney and advanced medical directives, as well as guidance on landlord-tenant agreements or family law issues like [child] custody and divorce."  She continued by saying "But, I also advise commanders regarding a myriad of legal issues that may occur on base [like] justice matters, administrative actions, ethical matters, contract issues or any potential legal issue he or she wants me to look at."

Whether preparing a Guardsmen to deploy or providing routine assistance, a Guard legal office plays a critical role in protecting the homeland and supporting federal efforts.  And while Guardsmen could benefit personally and professionally from the free legal service, are they tapping into this benefit?

"In my experience, the only time a lot of our [drill-status Guardsmen] hear about the legal office services is before they are about to deploy," said Stern, who admits to also not knowing prior to Styer's arrival at the Wing. "But now that I know, and from my experiences, I have been telling everybody. It's often overlooked until the last minute, until people are getting ready to deploy. But it's important because as Guardsmen we should always be prepared."