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NEWS | Oct. 20, 2008

Paralegals seek to beef up career field

By Staff Sgt. Tim Bazar Editor

Air Education and Training Command paralegals were on hand at the commissary during Texas Paralegal Day Oct. 23 to pass along cross-training information to Airmen interested in joining the career field.

They answered questions about the job, handed out legal information and shared how command officials are reaching out to Airmen in an in-service recruiting effort.

"We've been an indispensable part of the Air Force legal team for as long as there has been an Air Force," said Staff Sgt. Brian Hawk, an AETC paralegal. "We work hand-in-hand with judge advocates to provide active-duty, retiree and dependent personnel with legal assistance, administrative representation, wills, power of attorney and a laundry list of other military related legal issues."

Paralegals are part of a team who provide legal support and customer assistance to every level of command.

Originally called "legal specialists" and considered a small part of the personnelist career field, officials determined the paralegal career field needed a unique and distinctive Air Force Specialty Code, which is 5J0X1.

In 1979, the Community College of the Air Force recognized the distinctive nature of the paralegal career field and approved an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies that is recognized by the American Bar Association.

"Paralegals who earn their CCAF while in the service can get out and serve as a fully certified paralegal anywhere," said Sergeant Hawk. "Since we're recognized by the ABA, it really is a rewarding program."

The Judge Advocate team of officers, enlisted, Guard, Reserve and civilians has grown to more than 3,200 members. About 1,200 paralegals provide vital research, administrative and clerical support to every facet.

"Any success I have had as a 'JAG' is a direct result of the skill and professionalism of the paralegals I have been assigned with over the last 21 years," said Col. David C. Wesley, AETC staff judge advocate. "From my first day on active duty ... I was dependent on their wisdom and professionalism. Without the services of our corps paralegals, I would be lost."

Airmen interested in joining the career field will attend the Judge Advocate General's school at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., where trainees receive instruction in military law, legal research, writing and administrative and clerical support.

"If you're looking for a job that at the end of the day you'll feel good about, this is it," said Chief Master Sgt. Angela Dodd, AETC paralegal manager.

For more information on how to cross-train into the career field, call Master Sgt. Shawn Brooks or Chief Dodd at 652-4511 (DSN 487-4511).