Inside the 908th: Paralegals - The Backbone of the JAG Corps

  • Published
  • By Maj. John T. Stamm
  • 908th Airlift Wing

“The successful delivery of legal services would be impossible without our paralegals,” said Maj. Mary Scott Hunter, 908th Airlift Wing deputy staff judge advocate. “We, the lawyers, get a lot of credit; but our highly skilled paralegals are the backbone of the [Judge Advocate General’s] Corps.”

Air Force paralegals, Air Force Specialty Code 5J0X1, manage and perform legal functions under the supervision of an SJA. These include legal research, writing, analysis, interviewing and discovery management in the areas of administrative law, military justice, operational law, claims, office management and court-reporting.

They are responsible for conducting legal research by reviewing and analyzing available precedents to make final legal recommendations for the SJA, or other senior attorney, compiling inputs, adding updates and interpreting statistical data. 

They also develop and maintain legal assistance materials and resources for Airmen.

“It’s a challenging job, but I really enjoy the customer-facing side of it,” said Senior Airman Emily L. Hansen, 908th AW paralegal. “Members will come to us seeking a power of attorney, wills or documents they need notarized. Sometimes they need advice on employer issues, landlord issues or other issues of that nature. So, the attorneys give legal advice and I assist by conducting research and drafting documents.”

Providing administrative and litigation support in processing and execution of all judicial and nonjudicial matters according to applicable laws and instructions and the Manual for courts-martial, paralegals assist commanders and first sergeants with determining appropriate disciplinary actions. They process line of duty determinations, administrative separation actions, and draft legal reviews as needed.

Under the supervision of an attorney, they examine preliminary evidence for sufficiency of facts and jurisdiction over offense(s) and offender, perform legal research, draft charges and specifications, and prepare and processes all documentation/evidence required for courts-martial and Article 15 actions from investigation through final action. They also act as a trial team member by assisting attorneys with investigating leads, conducting witness interviews, reviewing case status and developing case strategy.

“Sometimes, on the justice side, you are exposed to the ins and outs of the military,” said Hansen. “But that’s what I find most rewarding; helping commanders maintain good order and discipline in their units.”

Acceptance into this specialty requires an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery minimum score of 51 on the general portion, the ability to routinely lift 40 pounds, and meet the following criteria:

  • No non-judicial punishment under the provisions of Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the previous 6 years
  • Ability to communicate effectively in writing
  • Ability to keyboard (type) at a minimum rate of 25 words per minute (WPM)
  • Ability to speak clearly and distinctly  
  • No record of emotional instability, personality disorder, or other unresolved mental health concerns that may result in the impairment of the paralegal duty function, or risk to the mission
  • No record of substance abuse, domestic violence, or child abuse.
  • No convictions by courts-martial
  • No convictions by a civilian court except for minor traffic violations and similar infractions
  • No non-judicial punishment or administrative action based on sexual assault, sexual harassment, physical abuse or unprofessional or inappropriate relationship
  • No non-judicial punishment or administrative action reflecting a lack of integrity, for violating ethical standards and/or professional responsibilities

Finally, applicants must receive certification by the wing legal office superintendent and staff judge advocate that they have been interviewed and are acceptable for entry.

It isn’t easy to become a paralegal in the Air Force Reserve; but for those like Airman 1st Class Kiana M. Germany, 908th AW paralegal, the reward is worth the effort.

“It’s the knowledge you obtain,” said Germany. “You become well-rounded and learn about everything. You don’t have an excuse to not know what’s going on or the rules of the Air Force because you’re required to know all of them to help other people.”

“Military paralegals are also highly sought after in the civilian legal community,” added Hunter. “So, Air Force Reserve paralegals are extremely well-positioned, both in their military careers and for civilian job potential as well.”

If you are interested in a part-time career with full-time benefits as a Reserve Citizen Airman with the 908th Airlift Wing, please contact our Recruiting staff at 334-953-6737.