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18th Wing Law Center wins Legal Office of the Year Award

Senior Airman Dorien A. Hamilton, 18th Wing Judge Advocate military justice paralegal walks a stack of documents into the court room at Kadena Air Base.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dorien A. Hamilton, 18th Wing Judge Advocate military justice paralegal, prepares to review court records, evidence, and administrative case files on Kadena Air Base, Japan, June 19, 2020. The 18th Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate was awarded the 2019 Legal Office of the Year Award, which recognizes an outstanding legal office whose legal support best exemplifies the JAG Corps' mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez)

1st Lt. Susan S. Lee, explains the legal handouts detailing overview information for specific cases, helping agencies, and other legal steps that customers must know before taking action on Kadena Air Base.

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Susan S. Lee, 18th Wing Judge Advocate chief of legal assistance, explains the legal handouts detailing overview information for specific cases, helping agencies, and other legal steps that customers must know before taking action on Kadena Air Base, Japan, June 19, 2020. The 18th Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate received an “Outstanding” rating during the Unit Effectiveness Inspection and Article 6 Rule of Law Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez)

Lawyers from the 18th Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate share stories at work.

From left: U.S. Air Force Capt. John-Charles M. Laws, chief of litigation, Capt. Lauren F. Swanson, chief of administrative discharges, and Capt. Kate A. Rochat, chief of adverse actions, all assigned to the 18th Wing Judge Advocate, review records of a trial currently in review by the Air Force appellate courts on Kadena Air Base, Japan, June 19, 2020. The 18th Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate received record-breaking inspection results and won the Air Force’s Legal Office of the Year Award, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez)

Airman from the 18th Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate review case files in the court room at Kadena Air base.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dyana L. Dillard and Senior Airman Dorien A. Hamilton, 18th Wing Judge Advocate military justice paralegals, look over a general court-martial record on Kadena Air Base, Japan, June 19, 2020. The 18th Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate is well-known throughout the JAG Corps for their production of 13 consecutive perfect records of trial to date thus, safeguarding the integrity of each case they handle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez)

Airman from the 18th Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate roleplay a case in the court room.

From left: U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Edrianne F. Flores, Law Office superintendent, Senior Airman Dyana L. Dillard and Senior Airman Dorien A. Hamilton, military justice paralegals, all assigned to the 18th Wing Judge Advocate, conduct witness interrogation and demeanor training while in court on Kadena Air Base, Japan, June 19, 2020. The 18th Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate earned the highest honor awarded to an Air Force legal office for best providing Airmen with the professional, full-spectrum legal support required for mission success. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez)

The Office of the Staff Judge Advocate team poses for a great photo.

Members of the 18th Wing, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate team pose for a group photo on Kadena Air Base, Japan, June 19, 2020. The 18th Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate was named the 2019 Air Force Legal Office of the Year and received the first “Outstanding” rating and highest score under the current inspection system during the 2019 Unit Effectiveness Inspection and the Article 6, UCMJ Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --

The 18th Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, commonly known as the Kadena Law Center, received record-breaking inspection results and won the highly coveted Air Force’s Legal Office of the Year Award for 2019.

This award is the highest honor bestowed on an Air Force legal office by the Judge Advocate General Corps Headquarters, and recognizes the legal team that best provides Airmen with the professional, full-spectrum legal support required for mission success.

The Kadena Legal team competed against all of the legal offices in the Air Force. After inspection, legal offices receive a grade out of a five-tier system in ascending order of unsatisfactory, satisfactory, commendable, excellent, and outstanding.

The Kadena law center received the first “Outstanding” rating under the current JAGC inspection framework and the second “Outstanding” rating in JAGC history.

Step foot inside the Kadena Law Center and you will quickly sense a positive atmosphere of morale and camaraderie. Smiling faces and open lines of communication run left to right with lawyers, paralegals, and support staff fluidly collaborating and moving like clockwork.

This welcoming aura is underscored by the influence and leadership of the team’s superintendent, Master Sgt. Edrianne F. Flores.

“We emphasize empowerment – people first, then the process – at every echelon, encouraging individuals to take ownership of their programs and get creative to improve their areas of responsibility,” Flores said. “As a paralegal superintendent, the best part was seeing the growth, confidence, and expertise in each of my teammates from the officer, enlisted, and civilian personnel.”

The team underwent a critical inspection as required by Article 6 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, while simultaneously being inspected during the 18th Wing’s Unit Effectiveness Inspection.

The inspection periods covered three years of work performance and thoroughly examined 120 areas of work product spanning four legal sections including Civil Law, Military Justice, Operations and International Law and Leadership.

“Putting in the extra time to getting to know your customers and building strong ties with them pays incredible dividends and makes work enjoyable,” said Capt. Gabriel W. Bush, chief of military justice. “The inspectors found it most impressive that the team’s cohesion and morale was high while also producing timely, quality, and relevant legal support to the base and the Air Force as a whole.”

The team went so far as to innovate and raise recommended improvements to legal processes to higher headquarters, providing feedback on issues that were visible at the base level. This willingness to operate in excellence, provide timely, relevant and candid feedback coupled by a top-down empowered staff ultimately led to Air Force-wide policy changes.

“Each section and individual knew his or her role, unique talents and how they fit into the strategic mission of the legal field, as well as the importance of the service they provide to Team Kadena,” said Flores. “As a result, each individual became a technical expert in their respective field, thus enabling them to provide commanders and leadership teams with accurate, confident, and consistent advice and services.”

The role of the Legal Office is critical especially as changes within the law and regulations constantly take place. The Kadena Law Center’s top rating is truly a testament that when leaders make the time to take care of the people through relationship building and networking, then the process will naturally thrive as well.

“As a JAG, I’ve never seen a team come together so well over such a long period of time and function so well together,” said Col. Jason S. Wrachford, 18th WG staff judge advocate. “Building on our diverse backgrounds, different life experiences, and varied perspectives, we were and remain committed to the mission and delivering the best product possible. To achieve the highest JAG Corps inspection score to date for this type of inspection validated the strength of our team.”