AFDW: Home of a Diverse and Complex Legal Practice

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Robert Jarman, Deputy SJA, and Lt. Col. Brus E. Vidal, Director, Public Affairs
  • Air Force District of Washington
Every Air Force commander understands the importance of, and relies upon, his or her judge advocate (JA) office to help navigate legal matters. For the Air Force District of Washington (AFDW) commander, who serves as the Air Force's single voice for planning and implementing joint solutions within the National Capital Region (NCR), his JA is integral to mission success.

The mission of AFDW - Contingency Response, Ceremonial Honors and Operational Support across the Nation's Capital and worldwide - is far-reaching and complex; it is one of the most unique in the Air Force. This vast mission requires an educated, experienced, and agile JA team to support the AFDW commander. The AFDW staff judge advocate (SJA) and legal team go above and beyond this calling.

"The JA's job is to be a powerful force enabler for the command and the warfighter," said Col. Al Rees, AFDW's SJA. "It's great to be part of AFDW's team of attorneys and paralegals providing legal services that empower our commander and his staff."    

The most vital part of the SJA's job is advising the commander through the military justice process. As part of the "Operational Support" piece of the AFDW mission, the commander serves as General Court Martial Convening Authority (GCMCA) for 32,000+ Airmen worldwide. Unlike a typical base commander serving as a GCMCA over assigned personnel and personnel located on subordinate wing installations, the AFDW commander has jurisdiction over most Airmen in the NCR, and all Airmen, regardless of location, who are not assigned to a major command and not serving on an Air Force installation with its own convening authority. This includes most Airmen assigned to the Pentagon, Defense Agencies, other federal departments and agencies, and embassies throughout the world.

This span of responsibility gives rise to unique issues that keep the AFDW legal team busy. "Our legal professionals are exceptional --short of the Air Staff legal team, there is no other legal team out there that handles the complexity and diversity of issues our JA warriors tackle," said Maj. Gen. Darryl W. Burke, AFDW commander. 

While military justice is the legal team's most prominent responsibility, AFDW SJA supports all of AFDW's critical mission areas. For example, the team advises AFDW Contracting, which is responsible for awarding and administering Air Force contracts throughout the NCR. This includes multi-million dollar Headquarters Air Force requirements, like the NCR information technology support contract. Working hand-in-hand with AFDW contracting officers, AFDW attorneys advise on all phases of the contracting process from pre-award contract development through competition, award, protest and post-award contact administration.

The legal team also participates in AFDW's homeland defense and defense support to civil authorities' missions in the NCR. Specific missions include responding to an attack or natural disaster in the NCR. These missions are conducted and coordinated with federal, state and local stakeholders all operating under their own legal authorities. Air Force District of Washington operational attorneys navigate this complex legal environment, working closely with joint-service and interagency legal partners. 

Other areas of responsibility for the legal team include fiscal, environmental and labor law, ethics and issues relating to high-profile activities such as the Presidential Airlift Recapitalization, Air Force Memorial, the Armed Forces Retirement home, and many more.

"In our unique AOR, the issues and challenges are nonstop and wide-ranging," said Burke.  "I can always count on our stellar legal team to run the traps, be out in front and deliver on-point and effective legal advice, no matter the difficulty or complexity of the issues."

Air Force District of Washington's unique area of responsibility, the NCR and worldwide, demands a JA that can provide sound guidance in a variety of military justice, joint-service, interagency and policy implementation operations to support AFDW's vast mission. Our SJA deftly tackles all of these demands and gets the mission done!