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NEWS | May 20, 2014

AETC selects JBSA-Randolph legal office as tops in command

By Robert Goetz Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

Six months into 2012, members of the 502nd Security Forces and Logistics Support Group Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph looked at ways they could improve their performance in 2013.

The JBSA-Randolph legal team learned May 2 that the strides it made last year following that self-examination had not gone unnoticed outside its office. It was selected as the 2013 Air Education and Training Command Outstanding Legal Office of the Year in the small office category.

"It's humbling, because if you look across JBSA, everybody's doing a great job," Maj. Elvis Santiago, 502nd SFLSGJA deputy staff judge advocate, said. "We have to do more with less, but we've improved in every area. It's a testament to everyone in our office."

The 502nd SFLSG legal office in 2013 resolved "to be part of the larger mission of the Air Force," Santiago said, and demonstrated its commitment by assisting the JBSA-Lackland legal team during the height of the military training instructor trials.

The legal office typically handles four or five courts-martial per year, he said, but last year that number rose to 19.

"We provided assistance to JBSA-Lackland due to the surge in MTI cases," Santiago said. "That was part of an Air Force effort to hold everyone accountable for their actions."

The legal office met other objectives as well, extending its outreach to the surrounding community, streamlining the will preparation process, creating a continuing legal education program and increasing the volume of its legal opinions; in addition, staff members earned several individual awards at the command, base, wing and group levels.

Streamlining the will preparation process for beneficiaries resulted in much-improved productivity, Santiago said.

"We streamlined a process that used to take about three hours," he said. "Now we can get everybody out in 45 minutes to an hour. We produced 147 wills per attorney; that's 178 percent better than the Air Force average of 53."

In the area of community service, legal office staff members contributed 750 hours, lending a helping hand to organizations such as Haven for Hope and Habitat for Humanity. They also provided outreach to Randolph High School with Constitution Day and Law Day activities, and took advantage of teaching and mentorship opportunities.

"Teaming is one of the four pillars of our office, and we addressed how we could team with the local community to make it a win-win situation," Santiago said.

Last year was also marked by individual awards, including four for Jackie Christilles, AETC Outstanding Civilian Attorney and Civilian Employee of the Year at the JBSA, 502nd Air Base Wing and 502nd SFLSG levels, and Capt. Anna Scott, 502nd ABW Outstanding Young Attorney and 502nd SFLSG Company Grade Officer of the Year. Civilians Marcel Brown and Sarah Browne were cited as "unsung heroes" and Staff Sgt. Jason Brown earned Noncommissioned Officer of the Fourth Quarter for the 502nd SFLSG.

The legal office's evaluation process started when Lt. Col. Katherine Oler became staff judge advocate, Santiago said. Under her leadership, the staff looked at every area to maximize its potential.

Despite its small size, the legal office staff, which is composed of 13 active-duty members and four civilians, is responsible for legal assistance and military justice support for AETC, Air Force Personnel Center, Air Force Recruiting Service and 30 other mission partners, advising commanders on all legal matters and providing trial counsel at JBSA courts-martial. The office's client services range from legal counsel and powers of attorney to will and tax preparation.