Article Display

20th FW Legal Team continues culture of excellence, clinches Air Force-level award

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mariana Tafur
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 20th Fighter Wing Legal Office earned the U.S. Air Force’s 2022 Outstanding Legal Office of the Year award, May 17, 2023.

Throughout 2022, Shaw’s Judge Advocate team led Air Combat Command’s biggest and busiest military justice program.

In the 2022 timeframe, the team finalized 97 discharges with the fastest processing in the 15th Air Force, decreasing their overall processing times by 30 percent, all while ensuring discipline for 61 command teams across the continental U.S.

The win is the second time that Shaw’s “Legal Weasels” have clinched this high-level recognition since 2018, demonstrating a pattern of continued achievement.

“In 2018 this exact same office with entirely different personnel was the legal office of the year…which is incredibly unusual,” said Lt. Col. Elizabeth McDaniel, 20th FW Legal Office Staff Judge Advocate and unit commander. “I think what that tells you is there is a culture of excellence that has been successfully passed down through the generations of personnel who were working here.”

For a legal team to win an Air Force-level award twice in a four-year span is something unique in itself. Only one person held the continuity throughout those years.

“I’ve been here since 2016 and I love this job,” said Christine Herrera, 20th Fighter Wing Legal Office discharge clerk and retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. whose last job during active duty service was being the superintendent of Shaw’s legal office. “I work with a great crew and I couldn’t ask for better coworkers. We all come from different backgrounds and we all have a role to play in this office and I think that’s why we are so good as we are and capable of consecutively working to win that legal office of the year award.”

The team also cohesively and successfully completed two general courts martial at once - a first for the entire Air Force legal system.

When a court date was set for a September 2022 court martial, and the date directly conflicted with another prospective scheduled court requirement, the team had to creatively problem solve.

According to Tech. Sgt. George Flory, 20th FW legal office non-commissioned officer in charge of adverse actions, his leadership at that time believed in their team and that they could handle both cases rather than rescheduling the previously docketed court.

“We have a very unselfish work aspect, everyone embodied the Air Force core values,” said Flory. “We had our moments [and] it wasn’t easy by any means…but we definitely came together as a team and really put that team emphasis to complete our mission.”

Shaw's legal team demonstrated unrivaled dedication to duty, as proven by their year-round accomplishments and ability to maintain unity as a team.

“The office functions more like a family than it does in a classic office,” said McDaniel. “At the end of the day everybody knows they are a part of the same group and that they all care about the person that they’re talking to and that we’re working towards the same end… and it makes it a really pleasant place to work. It's a lot of fun and I consider myself fortunate to have been here and getting to work around such talented people.”

The leadership and camaraderie the team displayed throughout the year set the office as a whole for success.

“The culture was set by leadership from Col. McDaniel, Maj. [Izevbigie], and Master Sgt. Heinke; they definitely set the dynamic of the office,” said Tech. Sgt. Julia Sveda-Gilman, 20th FW Legal Office paralegal. “They were always so positive, reinforcing, and constantly letting us know that we were doing more than what we were expected to do. They believed in everything that we were doing.”

As the year comes to an end, Shaw’s legal team stays focused and resilient in work for the future.

“We have kept up the same mentality, especially since we have [had] such a big turnover this summer with all of our attorneys and leadership,” said Sveda-Gilman. “We can’t stop grinding. We just started going, and we haven’t slowed down since.”

The U.S. Air Force’s 2022 Outstanding Legal Office of the Year Award includes: Tech. Sgt. Andrew Kovacs, Tech. Sgt. Julia Sveda-Gilman, Capt. David Layman, Capt. Cameron Starr, Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Davis, Capt. Agnieszka Gaertner, Senior Airman Sierra Catton, Tech. Sgt. Dale Ellis, Tech. Sgt. George Flory, Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Weaver, Sarah Clore, Timothy Murphy, Christine Herrera, Staff Sgt. Jessica Bennett, Lt. Col. Elizabeth McDaniel, Maj. Osasumwen Izevbigie, Capt. Joshua Lopes, Capt. Nathan Johnson, Master Sgt. Stephanie Heinke.