ADC: The shield protecting America's Airmen

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Formal systems of law have existed since Hammurabi chiseled his code onto magnificent temples during his reign as ruler of the Babylonian empire.

Since that historic era, there has been a need for individuals to study and interpret those laws in defense of those on trial. Fast-forward a few thousand years and across the globe the modern legal system and the values of its practitioners are tested daily.

For the Air Force, a select few are chosen from among the Judge Advocate General corps to solely represent the best interests of accused Airmen.

"The mission and purpose of the Area Defense Counsel is to purely represent the interests of the Airmen who are subject to adverse administrative, or UCMJ-related, actions," said Capt. Joshua Wendell, MHAFB Area Defense Counsel. "While it's true the Air Force is the entity taking action against these individuals, it should also be noted it's also the organization providing the service of the defense counsel and paralegal. The Air Force ensures both sides of the scales of justice are represented."

The MHAFB ADC is a part of the Air Force Legal Operations Agency and a geographically separated unit on this installation with a separate, removed chain of command.

"The ADC does not report to nor is rated by any individuals from wing leadership because there would be a serious conflict of interest if that were the case," he continued. "That is why Trial Defense Services is set up in this unique way; to ensure we are in no way responsible to or answer to the convening authority, which in most cases is the base commander or higher headquarters commander."

With the concept of all citizens equal before the law being a cornerstone of democratic philosophy, there is a greater need for clever attorneys and paralegals.

"We are bound only by our ethical rules in the defense of our clients meaning we cannot break any laws to protect them or allow them to do the same when under counsel," said Wendell. "The only thing the Air Force wants to see us do is defend our clients zealously and ethically. Those are our marching orders."

The first person you will see when visiting the base ADC is Staff Sgt. Carlo Milillo, MHAFB ADC defense paralegal.

"Attorney-client privilege extends to me as well, because it's just the two of us in this office," said Milillo. "It is my affirmative duty to assist and work in the best-interests of Airmen who come into this office. Also, it's extremely important for Airmen to remember their Article 31 rights. These are not something derived from an Air Force Instruction or Air Force policy; they are derived from the United States Constitution."

Knowing these rights can assist Airmen when faced with administrative actions such as letters of counseling, reprimand or any Uniform Code of Military Justice procedure.

"Basically if an individual comes to us with letters of counseling, reprimand or any administrative action taken against them, or even just questions-- we are duty-bound to assist that individual," added Wendell. "Regardless of what is being done to you by the chain of command, we are here to assist even if it is just to answer questions."

Wendell emphasized the three main goals of the MHAFB ADC are;

1. They are a service provided by the Air Force because it recognizes the Constitutional rights of Airmen where the accused must be represented by competent legal counsel.

2. Almost everything told to the ADC is considered completely privileged information.

3. The range of services they can provide, is available for all Airmen to utilize.

"We are the repository of knowledge for Airmen to utilize and literally taking care of Gunfighters by representing their constitutional rights or interests," explained Wendell. "We are the shield, here to protect and defend America's Airmen."

For more information contact the MHAFB ADC at (208) 828-2675.