WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo.-- The 442nd Fighter Wing Judge Advocate General office provides legal counsel to commanders and Airmen of all ranks on a wide variety of topics, from an even wider assortment of legal professionals.
The 442nd FW JAG office is comprised of five members with very diverse backgrounds ranging from two prior Army Soldiers, a Navy Seaman, a prior service active-duty Airman and an Air Force traditional reservist with deployment experience.
Maj. Timothy O’Conner, deputy staff judge advocate 442nd FW, began his military career in 1986 as an enlisted security police member of the active-duty Air Force. He later served in the Iowa Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and the active-duty Army before finally transferring into the Air Force Reserve in 2010.
“Having experienced life as an enlisted member, as well as spending considerable time in the Army, has allowed me to have an interesting perspective from multiple vantage points,” O’Conner said.
He said his JAG office here at the 442nd FW is a robust atmosphere filled with individuals who are passionate about the law but display a dedication toward the Air Force that delivers unparalleled legal service to wing members.
“My paralegals all took advantage of the seasoning training program and spent a combined total of over 20 months with our active-duty counterparts at the 509th Bomb Wing legal office,” O’Conner said. “I can’t say enough about Team Whiteman.”
Master Sgt. Kent Kagarise, law office superintendent 442nd FW, joined the active-duty Army in 1989 as a food service specialist and continued his career in the Army Reserve, Missouri Army National Guard and joined the Air Force Reserve as a public affairs photo journalist in 2008 before cross-training into the paralegal career field in 2012.
“It’s like drinking water through a fire hose,” Kagarise said. “All of us paralegals cross-trained into the career-field at relatively the same time – we came back from technical training, worked with our 509th brethren and all achieved our seven levels in record pace which, makes us a very unique office.”
Kagarise has been on special assignments for over 30 months that have kept him in various positions outside of the 442nd FW legal office and said Tech
Tech. Sgt. Kyle Scott, Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, has done an amazing job in his absence.
“I enjoy contributing to the overall effectiveness of the Air Force,” Scott said. “Sometimes the JAG Corps accomplishes it’s mission by facilitating punitive or disciplinary actions in an effort to rehabilitate a member or it is by crafting a document or providing legal assistance to benefit our Airmen.”
Scott, a former active-duty F-15 Dedicated Crew Chief, said it is important for Airmen to read and understand the regulations that govern their career and the tasks within their AFSC in order to avoid getting bad advice through miscommunication, or emulating colleagues who are not in compliance with Air Force regulations.
“With the availability of information, an Air Force member can read AFIs for themselves,” he said. “All too often I see members of the military ignore or disregard a regulation out of their own convenience or due to ignorance of the written guidance -- this leads to a disjoined force that is less effective.”
Staff Sgt. Stephen Potter, paralegal specialist 442nd FW, had experience in the active-duty Navy as well as Missouri Air National Guard as a firefighter before becoming an Air Force Reserve paralegal in 2012.
“The legal office is often looked at as a bad thing,” Potter said. “Write ups, demotions, and discharges but, we’re here to help airmen with wills and powers of attorney -- I help make sure if the worst happens to a fallen comrade, that hero’s family receives exactly what the airman intended their family get.”
Potter, a certified fire investigator with the Columbia, Mo. Fire Department, said he looks forward to unit training assemblies and the comradery of the 442nd legal office.
“We are a tight knit group that came from different career fields and this allows us to add our life experiences to the JAG Corps,” he said.
Staff Sgt. Randy Huff Jr., paralegal specialist 442nd FW, joined the Air Force Reserve in 2008 and deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 where he worked in air transportation.
“Over there I drove forklifts to load cargo onto aircrafts, but I have always wanted to work in the legal careerfield,” Huff said. “I enjoy helping Airmen with their estate planning or doing research on an issue that finds the legally sufficient recommendation which, allows the attorney to give them timely and accurate legal advice.”
Huff said an Airman can be sent to school to learn the material on paper, but the seasoning training program allows a member to team with an active-duty partner which, is crucial for a traditional reservist to truly understand their careerfield through the overall Air Force mission objectives.
“We need to see how things are run and interact with clients, witnesses and judges on a routine basis and get hands-on experience to really work a case to fully understand the many intricacies of a legal office – the 509th legal office went above and beyond to ensure we are ready to accomplish the Air Force mission,” he said.
From Army foxholes, Navy decks and Air Force flight-lines five JAG Corps airmen met in the 442nd Fighter Wing legal office to assist in making Team Whiteman ready to: Fly, Fight and Win!