Checks, balances

  • Published
  • By 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

With responsibilities ranging from providing power of attorneys to advising on multi-million dollar international contracts, the 39th Air Base Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate verified and substantiated every action taken by their team in the past two years, ensuring compliance with all regulations and laws during the recent Unit Effectiveness and Article 6 Inspections.

While the UEI measures the team’s effectiveness through assessing and validating the office’s self-inspection program and primarily civil law processes, the Article 6 Inspection ensures the military justice system adheres to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and evaluates office leadership and morale.

“There are certain requirements and rules that the military must uphold because we want to be able to honestly and openly defend the national security interests of the United States,” said Master Sgt. Jason Leighton, 39th ABW law office superintendent. “To demonstrate we maintain good order and discipline and provide comprehensive legal advice free from undue command influence, we have to physically show documentation.”

With over 160 inspectable items, the team capitalized on a continuous evaluation process to provide a clear picture of prolonged compliance, effectiveness and continual improvement.

“At a base with high turnover and diverse, fast-paced operations, we had to find a way to account for all the work our team provides,” said Capt. Ryan Ewin, 39th ABW deputy staff judge advocate. “Since the inspection period exceeds the length of our assignment, we owe it to our predecessors, successors and current team to capture the pride we have in our mission and the steps we have taken to adapt and become more proactive.”

During an inspection, inspectors have a set amount of time to comb through details and check that each response aligns with not only their questions, but the corresponding regulations. Teams therefore provide documentation in a clear and concise manner to paint an accurate picture of how they complete tasks, train, and provide counsel.

Using OneNote, the team established a best practice for the wing – a live tracking system that eliminated the time compiling multiple users’ inputs and keeping track of versions, as well as complied with the Privacy Act and communication storage and system regulations. Additionally, it allowed the team to illuminate areas of improvement.

“You have to be thorough, take ownership, answer honestly and when you find an area you are not in compliance with or could improve upon, take the feedback forthright and find a way to fix it,” said Ewin.

For example, the office discovered one of the processes it used was inefficient during a self-inspection leading up to the UEI and Article 6 Inspections. This led to revamping a 33-year old Air Force legal assistance intake form to align better with the JAG Corps’ information systems.

Changes like this, along with consistent and sound legal advice, resulted in the legal office receiving a highly commendable rating and two judge advocates being named outstanding performers by The Judge Advocate General’s Corps Inspections and Standardization Directorate (AF/JAI).

“One of the unique aspects of the Article 6 is that the evaluators actually talk with different organizations and personnel to see how well we provide customer service,” said Leighton. “It is a very humbling experience to learn how others perceive our work and even more humbling to have those comments validate our two outstanding performers’ dedication to the mission.”

Ensuring the Air Force and their customers have full faith and confidence in their processes plays a critical role in the base’s readiness. Whether they are helping an Airman draft a will or advising on the implications a certain action could have if taken by the command, each deliberate action taken by the legal office is done with care and expertise.

“We are a helping agency; we genuinely want to assist our Airmen to the best of our abilities so they are fully equipped and able to support and defend against all enemies foreign and domestic,” said Leighton.