Fighting for Airmen’s rights

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney.

“You have the right to an attorney” should signal to every active duty Airman they need to seek the advice of the Area Defense Counsel.

The ADC is a tenant unit independent from the installation and does not report to the wing commander.

“We are set up to defend Airmen who may face any criminal or administrative discipline,” said Capt. Brandon O’Malley, the ADC for Eielson’s Airmen. “Our mission is to defend and serve our clients,  and ensure Airmen are treated fairly, protected, and fully understand and are able to exercise all the rights they are afforded.”

Airmen can seek counsel from the ADC for a variety of legal issues, a few including Letters of Counseling or Reprimand, referral Enlisted Performance Reports, and courts-martial.

“Anytime an Airman gets into trouble or may be disciplined, they can seek counsel from our office,” said O’Malley. “We are able to represent them for anything on base and for any off base incidents for which they may face adverse action from the military.”

The process is fairly simple, but it differs for every Airman. Each case starts out with a sit down or phone call to discuss the issues and any charges they may be facing.

“The biggest thing we talk through first is our confidentially,” said O’Malley. “The ADC offers attorney-client confidentiality, which means that they cannot disclose anything told to them about past misconduct without the client’s consent. We have one of the strongest forms of confidentially that exists in the law and there are very few and very rare exceptions to that. Every case, every Airman, and every situation is different, but our focus is getting them to understand, and advise on their rights, and then figure out what actions we can take to serve their best interests.”

The ADC is different than the legal office. In simple terms, the legal office advises commanders, supervisors, directors, leadership, etc., while the ADC’s sole client is Airmen.

“We occasionally work with the legal office, but far more times than not, our client’s interests are exactly opposite,” said O’Malley. “We zealously and vigorously defend our clients, while they advise theirs.”

Another important thing the ADC stresses is who they report to.

“We don’t report to anyone here on this base,” said Staff Sgt. Kimberly Bottino, the defense paralegal with the ADC. “Our leadership is completely separate. We do what is best for our clients.”