Air Force Legal Team Advises Afghans

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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Members of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing here are helping the Afghan air force Kandahar air wing leadership and legal office implement military justice and hold the wing's servicemembers accountable to military standards.

Maj. Deanna Daly, Staff Judge Advocate for the 451st AEW, and her paralegal, Tech. Sgt. Terry Beasley, have stepped in to help mentor the KAW legal office.

"Just like any other military, the AAF needs to have good order and discipline, and rules that are enforced," Daly said. "If you have someone that goes AWOL for three months and he's your only helicopter mechanic, then you're not going to be flying that helicopter for three months. So having good order and discipline makes it possible to do the mission."

Daly, deployed here from RAF Mildenhall in England, has been advising Afghan Col. Saaid Ahmad for about two months. Ahmad is not an attorney, but has served in the Afghan military for 38 years and has a background in criminal investigation. Ahmad is the principal legal advisor to Afghan Maj. Gen. Abdul Raziq Sherzai, commander of the KAW.

"What we're trying to do is establish a basic program for the legal office, because they haven't had that before," Daly said. The concept of a legal office is relatively new to the Afghan military. The first one was established in 2002, she said.

Over the past two months, Daly and Beasley have worked with Ahmad and his paralegal on implementing non-judicial punishment, which is addressed in the U.S. military's Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The Afghan military has a similar set of laws, which translates into English as the "State of Afghanistan Ministry of Justice Code."

The code identifies various means of holding troops accountable, from verbal and written counseling all the way up to court martial.

"You have to let everybody know what the rules are, so Colonel Ahmad and I are giving briefings on the articles and what they mean," Daly said. "We're trying to teach commanders how to enforce the rules."

Daly said she was struck by how open Ahmad and the other Afghan airmen are, and how receptive they are to being advised by Americans.

"They ask a lot of questions, and they're very interested in America," she said. "They're very friendly."

Beasley, deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., said the experience so far has been both challenging and rewarding.

One challenge is the language barrier and getting used to using an interpreter to communicate, he said. The U.S. advisors must also have patience working in a system where it can take weeks to accomplish a routine task.

"It's very rewarding, however, when their hard work pays off," he said. When the Afghan legal office recently briefed their commanders and senior non-commissioned officers on the Afghan articles and what the legal office does, there was a real sense of accomplishment, Beasley said.

"To be a part of that and know I played a role in advising the AAF is something I take great pride in," he said. "Working with the Afghans is something that not everyone will get to do, and I hope to use my experience here to encourage others to deploy and help the Afghans as well."

The KAW, which was activated in November 2009, has nearly 1,000 personnel assigned and provides fixed and rotary wing capabilities to the Afghan National Army's 205th and 215th Corps. The wing currently has Mi-17 helicopters and Cessna 208B aircraft.

The Afghan wing is primarily advised by a Coalition unit also located at KAF: the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, whose mission is to assess, train, mentor, equip and assist the AAF.

"We highly value our partnership with the legal office at the 451st AEW," said Lt. Col. Mark Delvecchio, deputy commander of the 738th AEAG. "Since we don't have legal advisors assigned to our unit, it's essential we capitalize on Kandahar Air Field's talented professionals to assist with training and mentoring the Afghan military in critical functions.

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