Area Defense Counsel represents Airmen, not Air Force

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason Wiese
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
The F.E. Warren Air Force Base Area Defense Counsel assists active-duty Airmen undergoing military justice and adverse administrative actions and total force Airmen under specific circumstances. Whereas base legal offices represent the best interests of the Air Force, the ADC represents the best interests of individual Airmen.

According to Staff Sgt. Joshua Belanger, Air Force defense paralegal, while some Airmen think the ADC only handles high-level legal cases, the ADC also handles low-level situations; a variety of adverse actions, from letters of counseling to courts martial, merit representation from the ADC. They help Airmen understand how various administrative actions can affect their careers, provide assistance in writing rebuttals to adverse paperwork and represent Airmen facing judicial or non-judicial punishment.

In some cases, Airmen may be subject to criminal prosecution by a civilian agency. In those situations, the ADC will not be able to represent the client at the civilian proceedings, said Capt. Karen Hinkle, ADC.

However, if an Airman is arrested or pending criminal charges in a civilian court, they may also face administrative action from the Air Force, Belanger said. The ADC can assist with those actions. Whether it is by military or civilian law enforcement, Airmen always have the right to remain silent to avoid incriminating themselves and the right to legal assistance when being questioned.

Military attorneys know what legal situation calls for what sort of representation. Airmen unsure of where to turn can call an ADC or base legal office for further information.

Airmen can have confidence military attorneys will impartially represent their side of court cases. ADCs' chain of command addresses this concern; they fall under the Air Force Legal Operations Agency, which is headquartered in Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. Local ADC offices are available at most major Air Force installations.

"It's nice because we're able to assist clients without any influence from the base's chain of command and provide completely independent advice," Hinkle said.

The separate chain of command allows ADCs to represent their clients to the fullest extent, Hinkle said.

To be able to handle the cases, military military attorneys work at base legal offices first. They are then selected to be ADCs  allowing for a more experienced corps of attorneys to represent clients in the ADC.

"It gives us a better understanding some of the issues Airmen are going to face," Hinkle said. "ADCs need to have experience. We want to have people who are comfortable in a courtroom."

Airmen seeking the help of the experienced professionals in the ADC can call 773-3248. After normal duty hours, Airmen can reach on-call ADC assistance through the 90th MW Command Post at 773-3921.

"You can always call our office and set up an appointment," Hinkle said. "That's probably the easiest way. In case of an emergency, folks can walk in as well during duty hours."

Because no two cases are exactly the same, Airmen should call if they need legal assistance.