By Staff Sgt. Michelle Chabot, 460th Space Wing Area Defense Council
/ Published December 13, 2016
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- I find myself in a unique position in the job that I currently hold in the military. Two years ago, I received an assignment to be the defense paralegal at the office of the Area Defense Counsel here at Buckley Air Force Base. After cross-training from the weather career field many moons ago, I spent the majority of my career before this assignment working in the military justice sections of base legal offices, working with commanders and first sergeants to maintain good order and discipline – this was essentially the prosecution side of the house. The ADC is the defense.
Now I admit, before I took this position, I really had no idea what this job entailed. My predecessor described what my job duties would be before I transitioned over, but I had no idea what I would learn about myself and people in these past two years. To me, this job will be one of the most rewarding things I will ever do in my life. It has forever changed the way I look at people and what they go through.
Let me explain further: everyone has something about their lives that not everyone knows about. Maybe it’s a fascination with Spongebob Squarepants, or that they have to put their left shoe on first every day or something isn’t right, or that they are a nationally ranked gamer (like one of our very own first sergeants).
These are just minor things, but most people have something bigger. Maybe they are stressed they can’t afford a must-have toy for their child, maybe they are having trouble having children, maybe their mom is in the hospital or maybe they just found out their spouse has been cheating on them. My point is, you never know everything about someone – whether it is a weird quirk or a debilitating internal struggle.
The more people I meet here at the ADC, the more I learn that most people do not wake up one morning and decide to break the law. Honestly, over half our clients are people that are not suspected of any misconduct. They just need a listening ear and some information.
At the ADC, my attorney, Capt Ross Brennan, and I have 100% confidentiality with our clients. While our ethics rules say we may disclose information in limited circumstances, such as if a client states they are going to harm someone in the future, however it is entirely optional.
Much like the chaplains, this confidentiality is a core component of our job, a job that comes with a completely separate chain of command and which is protected by the Constitution. I hear different stories every day and am thankful that this job puts me in a position to help clients in whatever way I can.
Well, since you’re not a defense paralegal, what can you do? As we continue through the holidays, everyone says to be watchful of the Airmen around us for “warning signs” and get them help if they need it. Resiliency videos, training and emails touch on the subject, but no situation is ever the same as another.
It’s the little things that one takes for granted that could make a difference to someone else. Saying, “Hey I know you made a mistake, everyone does, but you know what? I’m here if you need ANYTHING,” and then following through with that. Maybe next time while walking down a hallway and saying the customary “good morning, how are you today?” you actually stop for 30 seconds and hear how someone is doing. They may not feel like sharing a struggle they are going through, but that person will know you care, and maybe a week from now they will open up to you.
A small action and you may have the privilege that I often have in my job: being the change that sparks a revolution in someone’s life and career. How do you quantify helping someone save their marriage, care for their child, or make a life-saving habit change? The answer is, you probably can’t. What I can promise you is that if you make that kind of impact on someone, they will probably remember you for the rest of their life and even more likely, you will remember them. Someone is forever changed because you cared.
Dealing with the unknown is usually when someone is the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, if someone is being investigated for misconduct or is headed down a road that could lead to misconduct, the unknown comes with the territory. Will this ruin my career? What about my family who relies on my pay? I was going up for Senior Airman Below the Zone next month, but now what? These are just a few of the questions that people have. Add that to holiday stresses and other things that may be going on in their life, and it is a recipe for concern.
The ADC office is here to help. Maybe we aren’t the office that can handle the issue, but we can point the client in the right direction or, if nothing else, lend a listening ear with 100% confidentiality.
Some of the best supervisors and first sergeants I have ever known have sent people to see us. They either walk them down here or give us a call and introduce us over the phone. We are here to protect the rights of Air Force members on base and it is our goal to make sure everyone knows of those rights.
Yes, we are the defense and will defend our clients and protect their rights, but we are not here as adversaries when it comes to taking care of our biggest asset, our people. Our office is here specifically to take care of people, so please come find out who we are and what we are about. Bring your troops or your supervisor and we can talk things out if you’d like or explain things so you both understand. We value appointments, but in emergencies we can always take a few minutes to talk to someone who walks in.
We are having an open house at our office Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. We will be serving holiday cookies and drinks as well as showing the holiday legal thriller, “Miracle on 34th Street.” What more could you ask for than a sparkling trial defense of Kris Kringle? Sounds like a perfect excuse to come meet our team, find out what we are all about, and what we do. Hope to see you there!
The ADC office is located in building 606 in the north-west corner of the building, past the education center and TMO. Please stop by or call our office if there is anything you’d like to discuss. Our hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and our number is 720-847-6967. We are available 24/7 so if it is an emergency and it is after hours, or if we are out of the office, call the command post at 720-847-4600 and ask to speak to the ADC.