JAG Corps serves its most important client: 162nd FW Airmen
By Staff Sgt. Erich B. Smith, 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 12, 2014
TUCSON, Ariz. -- While the entertainment world perpetuates the stereotype of military lawyers in dress uniforms parading in courtrooms and flying jets, the 162nd Fighter Wing's Judge Advocate General professionals are more about supporting the Citizen-Airman through legal assistance.
"We serve the men and women of the Air National Guard by meeting their pre-deployment legal needs in the area of wills, notaries, powers of attorney, estate planning and addressing other deployment-related legal issues," said Lt. Col. Sue Ellen Schuerman, staff judge advocate for the 162nd Fighter Wing.
In fulfilling its dual-role to the Air National Guard, however, JAG also operates in direct support of the wing commanders, providing counsel in regards to ethics, military justice and personnel matters.
Born out of the need to enhance good order and discipline for a colonial Army fighting the British, JAG has evolved into a crucial support function, primarily concerned with relieving the stress of the deployed Airman.
"Our (JAG-wide) legal practice has expanded tremendously over the years as society has become more legalistic," said Schuerman.
This is especially true given the increased reliance on air guard members worldwide supporting wartime missions and operating in hostile environments, according to paralegal specialist Senior Airman Bryan Adams.
"The JAG makes sure deployed service members are protected when they come home," said Adams, referring to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
A 1940 piece of legislation revamped during the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom, SCRA was designed to protect mobilized service members from certain civil actions, such as rental and mortgage agreements, tax issues and credit card concerns. USERRA protects member's civilian jobs when they return from any activation or deployments.
Though JAG is not permitted to provide advice on criminal or certain civil matters, the 162nd Fighter Wing's legal support team highly encourages Airmen to visit their office so they can steer them in the right direction by providing referrals.
Nevertheless, the pre-deployment needs of the Airman play a prominent role in the daily duties and responsibilities of the modern-day JAG Corps.
162nd Fighter Wing Airmen can now obtain basic legal information and begin the wills and power of attorney process at any time at https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil, which does not have to be accessed through a military computer.
"Once a member completes a worksheet, the website generates a ticket number. We ask that members then email us the ticket number at email@example.com and make an appointment to come in to execute their documents," Schuerman said.
JAG also prepares powers of attorney on a walk-in basis during UTA, though Schuerman encourages Airmen to use the website first as it streamlines the process for obtaining important legal documents.
While the legal profession in the civilian sector seems to fall victim to jokes about questionable practices and shady clientele, the wing's legal support team is in no danger of ever succumbing to an unwholesome reputation.
"What I like most about this profession is that I get to use my legal skills to serve my country,"' said Schuerman. "Although this may sound trite, not every lawyer job is about doing the right thing all the time. This one is."