Supporting the mission through legal assistance

  • Published
  • By By Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Even as B-2 Spiritss are flying overhead and operations are in full swing, a dedicated team of legal professionals are constantly working to ensure Team Whiteman and her Airmen are in full compliance with the laws they serve to protect.

The 509th Bomb Wing Legal Office provides support and advice to commanders and base agencies on a variety of issues which include military justice, contracts, labor, environmental and operations law.

"Our statutory mission is to provide military justice support," said Lt. Col. Todd Pennington, 509th Bomb Wing staff judge advocate. "We provide legal assistance for eligible clients for things like powers of attorney, last WILL and testament and different domestic relations issues, so it's a pretty broad practice area."

Along with being responsible for the statutory mission, the legal office also serves the Team Whiteman community through executing the military justice mission - one of the most powerful tools for commanders to maintain discipline in the force, Pennington said.

"A disciplined force is essential to any professional military force, especially in the [Air Force] community," Pennington said. "Standards of excellence are incredibly high and we're fortunate to get a very high-quality force that's recruited into this mission. Keeping it that way sometimes does require the military justice tool-set."

In addition to the military justice and statutory missions, the 509th BW Legal office also has a civil law mission, which is used to preserve command prerogatives.

"Everything that goes on in the U.S. government is a very regulated business," Pennington said. "There are laws that govern how we spend money, laws that govern how we employ civilian employees and laws that affect things like how we use government-owned vehicles and who can eat at the dining facility."

Being able to show compliance with civil laws enables legal office professionals to maintain their the authority and freedom of action.

"If we are fast and loose with the regulations that we have out there, we're going to get our freedom of action taken away and we'd have to get approval for low-level things," Pennington said. "So it helps us preserve those command options that exist at this level."

Another mission Team Whiteman's legal professionals are responsible for is providing legal assistance. Legal assistance helps keep Airmen focused on their responsibilities by helping them with legal issues they have outside the workcenter.

"If you have a personal legal problem weighing on your mind, that could be very scary and distracting," Pennington said. "Through legal assistance, we can help alleviate that and get Airmen focused on the mission."

The JA office provides support to active-duty Service members, reservists on Title 10 orders, dependents and retirees.

"We have a wide spectrum of Airmen and their families coming through our office," said Master Sgt. Kent Kagarise, 509th BW JA acting law office superintendent. "They could need help with anything from questions on a divorce to assistance with a bad car they bought from someone. You can throw out almost anything in the legal world you want and we'll be able to help with it. If you haven't spoken to an attorney, you can come on in here and get some help."

Kagarise said members of the legal office spend a lot of time assisting with wills and powers of attorney.

"A lot of people don't know that with powers of attorneys there are so many things you can do," Kagarise said. "If you have a pet and you're deploying, you can give someone the power of attorney to take care of your pet."

Kagarise said the primary clients of Team Whiteman's JA office are the Airmen.

"Folks are always deploying, so they're coming to make sure their husband or wife is taken care of and ensure there is a power of attorney for their children for their family care plans," Kagarise said.

Whether providing legal assistance or supporting the military justice mission, the goal of the 509th BW judge advocate office remains the same -- to see Airmen succeed.

"We're here to help and we don't want people to think of us as the punishers and an evil dark force that is just waiting to get people in trouble," Kagarise said. "We don't want to see you in the courtroom. We support the mission by supporting Airmen, by supporting their families. And we do that with legal assistance and corrective actions."