ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The Altus Air Force Base Legal Office does more than most might know. From notarizing important documents to giving the wing commander advice on legal proceedings, the office is responsible for a handful of daily tasks. Because legal takes care of a wide range of topics their office is split into three sections to help cover the base and its day-to-day activities.
The two largest sections of the legal office are military justice and civil law. Each section divides different legal proceedings and functions that the base deals with. The only thing they share is a small group of paralegals.
Enlisted paralegals help assist the attorney’s with research, drafting documents and other forms of support. They also provide people with walk-in services such as notarizing documents and powers of attorney.
“We act as the filter for the attorneys,” said U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Alexander Bugerenko, 97th Air Mobility Wing military justice paralegal. “We assist the attorneys in any way they need, providing information to help the attorneys to acquire a legal opinion so they can advise commanders and squadrons.”
The military justice section handles Uniformed Code of Military Justice violations. Military justice plays an essential part on the base and helps the commander ensure mission accomplishment.
“The commanders job is to make sure the mission goes off without a hitch,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. John Cane, 97th AMW chief of military justice. “One of the ways they can do that is to make sure everyone is compliant with the rules, meets standards and are doing the things they need to, in order to ensure that the mission is getting accomplished. Our job as prosecutors is to help maintain that good order and discipline so if there is misconduct or a deviation of standards we can rehabilitate the member and let everyone else know that these are the type of consequences in engaging in wrongdoing. ”
While military justice deals with mostly the misconduct in the military, the civil law section deals with more of the day to day concerns that Airmen or family members may have. Civil law covers anything that isn’t military justice, ranging from questions about ethics to will’s and community engagement. Civil law also helps with things such as environmental and medical law as well.
“What we do allows commanders to do what they do,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Lauren Kerby, 97th AMW chief of adverse actions, contracts and labor law. “We keep them out of trouble by helping them make decisions within the bounds that the law allows. We don’t make decisions for commanders but we do give them advice.”
The Legal Office may be all about rules and regulations, but that doesn’t mean they’re here to shut down morale. In fact, Kerby says differently.
“We really do try to help people do the things they want to,” said Kerby. “We’re not trying to keep people from having a good time or doing things, but usually we have some hoops that they have to jump through. Those hoops aren’t made by our office but they were made to keep people safe and to keep our personnel from crossing a line that they might not know existed.”
Keeping the base in line and flying is just another daily task for the Altus AFB Legal Office, working hard for Airmen and commanders. For more questions about the legal office and what they do, please call (548) 418-7294.