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Area Defense Counsel fights for you

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Brewer
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
“Complete attorney-client confidentiality” and “independent of your chain of command” are phrases Team Shaw members in-need of a defense counsel will come to understand.

The Shaw Area Defense Counsel team says they ensure the best defense possible, answering only to the Chief of the Trial of Defense Division, Washington, D.C., and cannot be influenced by your chain of command.

“We are here to give Airmen a fair shake and potentially keep their career together,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Spear, Air Force Legal Operations Agency ADC paralegal.

From a Letter Of Counseling to someone running the gambit on a sexual assault case, the ADC will gather personal information and duty history to look into every aspect of the client’s life in order to better understand the type of person being accused and potentially help, said Spear.

“There are so many cases that could be prevented before they even get to the ADC,” said Spear. “As awkward as it is, I try to emphasize that a lot of the sexual assault cases could be prevented by a simple conversation like, ‘do you want to do this or do you not want to do this?’”

Something people do not necessarily know or think about ahead of time with a sexual assault case, is it puts one’s sexual activities on blast for leadership, strangers in the courtroom and the public eye to pry apart, judge and come to conclusions on.

A lot of these cases could be prevented if Airmen had the foresight and knowledge ahead of time how much they could lose by even being suspected of wrong-doing.

“I see a lot of Airmen who don’t recognize this is a huge opportunity. Other people are waking up and struggling to find work, and we have it right there, ready to go every day,” said Spear. “A lot of problems could be solved from the get-go if supervisors told their Airmen being late can get you kicked out, marijuana usage is a simple Article 15 and 30-day process to get discharged, and sexual assault is about a year-long investigation before determining a discharge, as well as being potentially life-altering.”

Spear recommends supervisors take the blunt approach to scare new people coming in. If supervisors said ‘you need to do this or this will happen,’ Airmen might recognize they should re-examine their life and find out why they are constantly late, or in trouble.

A majority of their cases are sexual assaults and letters of reprimand and counseling. It is during these times, Airmen should know their rights and know who to contact.

Article 31 requires anyone who is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, whether or not they are designated law enforcement officer, advise military suspect of the nature of the allegation that the person has the right to remain silent and that anything they say can and may be held as evidence against them regardless of whether the suspect is in custody.

According to Spear, when young Airmen are brought into a room or approached by a senior non-commissioned officer, they subsequently feel compelled to give up superfluous information about every bad thing they have ever done.

“I think, fundamentally, every Airman on this base raised their hand to take an oath,” said Captain Joshua Joyce, AFLOA ADC. “That oath was to support and defend the constitution. There are certain things in the constitution we are given. Namely, these rights to not have people force us to talk against our interest and the right not to self-incriminate, that you find in the 5th Amendment.”

As citizens we are allotted the right to refuse searching of one’s personal property, which is found in the 4th Amendment, and the right to an attorney, within the 6th Amendment.

“Day-in and day-out, we get the chance to actually fight for the Constitution, fight for those rights for the people, and I think, on a very basic level, we interact with those principles,” said Joyce. “Those principles are important to protect Airmen.”

As members of the armed forces we fight for U.S. citizens rights under the constitution; rights that are not sacrificed when someone joins the military..

“Whatever adverse action comes your way, whether it’s an LOC or you’re at a court-martial now facing 50 years in prison, it’s important having somebody there to care only about your interests,” said Joyce. “I don’t care about what the commanders on base think of me. I care more about representing people and that’s what I’m charged with, to be a zealous advocate.”

Joyce said the ADC is important because everyone deserves to have someone in their corner who cares only about their interests.

“I wish people would come earlier in the process,” said Joyce. “If you get a piece of paperwork and wait until the third day to come in, we don’t have a lot of time to help you craft your response to do what you need to do.”

To give oneself an optimal chance at concocting a strong defense it would behoove all service members to come in the second they know they need help.

“Part of what we do is not only to help the person respond to whatever action is there but to mentor them a little bit and say, ‘Here’s where you’re at right now in your career, and if you keep going down this path, you could look at ending your Air Force career or worse,’” said Joyce. “Part of it is also trying to push them on that straight and narrow. We do see a lot of people hit bottom, but they are able to bounce back up and continue on with their careers.”
Shaw’s ADC can assist members facing any of the following:
- Article 15s
- Court Martials
- Involuntary discharges
- Letters of Counseling
- Letters of Admonishment
- Letters of Reprimand
- Unfavorable information files
- Control rosters
- Demotions
- Suspect advice
- Referral enlisted performance reports and officer performance reports
- Federal executive boards
- Accident investigation boards

The ADC office is located in the Airmen and Family Readiness Center and for any questions, concerns or to schedule an appointment contact the them at (803) 965-1775; (803) 895-1775; ADC cell (803) 464-5037.