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Pa. Air Guardsman's empathy, experience make her case as full-time staff JA

1st Lt. Hilary Styer, the 111th Attack Wing’s full-time staff judge advocate, prepares her workspace upon taking on the new role January 5, 2015, at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania. Styer is a Pennsylvania native who served as a lawyer in the civilian sector before joining the Pa. Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond/Released)

1st Lt. Hilary Styer, the 111th Attack Wing’s full-time staff judge advocate, prepares her workspace upon taking on the new role January 5, 2015, at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania. Styer is a Pennsylvania native who served as a lawyer in the civilian sector before joining the Pa. Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond/Released)

1st Lt. Hilary Styer, the 111th Attack Wing’s full-time staff judge advocate at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania, accepts a graduation certificate from Lt. Gen. Christopher Burne, The Judge Advocate General, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., during the Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course graduation April 2015, at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. Styer worked in civilian-sector criminal defense and family law before joining the Pa. Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by submitted/Released)

1st Lt. Hilary Styer, the 111th Attack Wing’s full-time staff judge advocate at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania, accepts a graduation certificate from Lt. Gen. Christopher Burne, The Judge Advocate General, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., during the Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course graduation April 2015, at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. Styer worked in civilian-sector criminal defense and family law before joining the Pa. Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by submitted by 1st Lt. Hilary Styer/Released)

HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa --  On Aug. 2014, 1st Lt. Hilary Styer began a whirlwind tour through The Judge Advocate General's Corps that - by blending various active-duty assignments and drill-status Guardsman roles - positioned her to fulfill the duties as the 111th Attack Wing's full-time deputy staff judge advocate here.

A journey that began and now continues at the 111th ATKW, has been an excursion of empathy and of obtaining experience. These elements combine to create the case for Styer to be a considered a perfect fit for the Philadelphia-area's only Air National Guard base.

"We're pleased to welcome [Styer] back to the Wing," said the 111th ATKW Commander Col. Howard L. Eissler. "She was a practicing lawyer in the civilian sector before joining our unit and spent some time with us here before going off to [officer training school] and then volunteering for [multiple active-duty assignments]."

Styer worked for three years in criminal defense and family law before commissioning into the role of a drill-status Guardsman with the Wing.

"Combine her direct civilian sector knowledge with the experience she obtained during her military assignments, and I have high expectations," said Eissler.

In 2014, she attended officer training school at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Immediately after graduating from OTS, she proceeded to technical training school for the Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course also held at Maxwell AFB.

She said that she recalled hearing about active-duty opportunities for Air National Guardsmen during her technical military training.

Upon graduation, she sought and seized a five-month, active-duty opening. In this role, she represented Airmen undergoing the medical evaluation board and processing through the formal physical evaluation board at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

Conducting disability litigation, she facilitated decision making on whether or not a member was entitled to a medical retirement or a discharge with severance pay.

"I was representing clients through that whole process and I learned a lot during my five months there," she said. "I ultimately want to help people, because a lot of people who are coming to see a lawyer are going through a difficult time in their life. If the roles were reversed, I would want my attorney to be empathic and listen to me."

According to Styer, being a lawyer is about speaking for the rights and interests of those an attorney represents.

"I think that a lot of people who join public service want to help people," said Styer. "And that's my ultimate goal...to help the mission, to help other Airmen. I try to be empathetic; and I like to think that I am."

When she finished working with the physical evaluation board, Styer searched for the next service prospect. Subsequently, that break came in the form of a 60-day tour at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

In this function, she played a key role in the determining administrative discharges and conducted legal assistance.

"Except for maybe adoption, normally when someone has to seek the help of a lawyer it's not for a good thing," said Styer. "For the most part, when you go to a lawyer it's because you're going through a difficult period of your life.

"And everyone deserves a fair shake."

As the Wing's full-time deputy staff judge advocate, Styer stated that her background in family law, along with proficiencies gained through her assorted tours, provides a balance of familiarity and compassion that will prove beneficial to the Wing and the Pa. National Guard.

And the leadership here agrees.

"Hopefully now that [Styer] is here, our members will take advantage of the legal benefits that she, and the office, can offer," said Eissler. "I'm confident that she will have a positive direct impact on our Guardsmen in both personal and professional matters."