When faced with charges big and small, Airmen can breathe a little easier knowing there is someone there to walk them through the legal process.
The Ramstein Area Defense Counsel provides Air Force members independent legal representation. Airmen suspected of an offense or facing adverse administrative actions can receive confidential legal advice from an experienced judge advocate outside the local chain of command.
“The Air Force was the first of the services to have a separate command structure for the defense,” said Capt. Daniel Schoeni, Area Defense Counsel on Ramstein. “This is one reason why the ADC works so effectively.”
ADC office personnel are not assigned to any of the legal offices on base. They are a unit of the Air Force Legal Operations Agency. Because of this, the ADC remains “completely separate” from the base legal office. They are not rated by the local command, eliminating any potential conflicts of interest with the wing.
“The job satisfaction on this side is tremendous,” Captain Schoeni said.
The ADC office helps clients provide context to a one-sided story. Communications with the ADC are confidential, allowing the member to freely discuss matters with defense counsel.
“Our job is to make sure that a fair result is obtained,” the captain said. “We help clients understand their situation, explore options and enable them to make informed decisions. This, in turn, helps commanders make fair and just decisions.”
When Airmen are faced with difficult legal decisions they might not know how to handle, they can count on the ADC to help.
“When charged with a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, they helped me with whatever I needed, answered as many of my questions as possible and took me all the way through the initial accusation to the not guilty verdict at my courts-martial,” said Airman 1st Class Scott Renfrow, fitness specialist with the 435th Services Squadron.
The ADC staff members take pride in their work, offering clients honest and sound legal advice in the best interests of their clients. This strong work ethic can be seen when the client is satisfied.
“I would recommend them to anyone, even for something as minor as an LOC rebuttal,” Airman Renfrow said.
For Airmen, making good decisions may even start before receiving official paperwork.
“Airmen can actually come and see us before they are in trouble. If they know something has gone wrong or something is not quite right, they can come and see us,” said Master Sgt. Claudia Nichols, defense paralegal for Air Force Legal Operations Agency, ADC. “The ADC will always help any servicemember who needs it, but it is up to the member to come in.”
But it doesn’t have to be a career-ending issue to motivate Airmen to visit the ADC, small administrative actions are also good to get guidance on.
“A lot of people think all we do is Article 15s and courts-martial, but we can help them with re-enlistment issues, EPR problems and verbal counseling,” Sergeant Nichols said. “It might seem minor stuff to you, but all those LOCs, LORs or LOAs can get you discharged just as easy as getting a DUI. We try to let people know that we can help with those things as well.”
For more information on the ADC, call 480-2182. Walk in hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.