Airmen, Guardians can ‘reach out’ for free legal representation Published April 27, 2023 By Jaima Fogg 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Uniformed Airmen and Guardians facing legal or administrative trouble have resources available to assist them with advice and counsel through the Office of the Area Defense Counsel. The ADC office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base provides legal assistance and representation to active-duty and Reserve Airmen and Guardians and National Guardsmen in Title 10 status. This experienced legal defense team is comprised of a licensed attorney and paralegal. ADC focuses on providing advice and advocating for individual Airmen or Guardians going through the military justice process. These legal services are provided at no cost to the member in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. “We focus on what is the best situation for the person,” said Capt. Ecehan Bayrak, Area Defense Counsel attorney. “What contributed to this charge and how can we get them back to being a valuable member of the unit and contributing to good order and discipline?” The defense team’s job is to keep the scales balanced. ADC operates separately from the member’s chain of command and cannot be influenced by commanders, senior enlisted leaders or supervisors. This separation helps ensure the Airman or Guardian is provided the best defense possible. No matter how serious the allegation, the service member should feel confident they are getting the most-effective representation. “The client is going through a process that they only understand 10 percent of and it’s lonely,” Bayrak said. “We are in their corner, and we can establish that attorney-client relationship and offer that knowledge of the process and that protection.” Communication between the service member and ADC is protected by attorney-client privilege, the same as civilians. Attorneys and paralegals have a legal obligation to the member they are representing and cannot disclose protected information to his or her leadership or chain of command. “We represent the Airman when they are having the worst day of their life,” Bayrak said. “We exist to help them. Everything they tell us is attorney-client privileged. We cannot make any disclosures unless they are a threat to national security or make threats to harm themselves or others.” Service members do not lose their protected constitutional rights upon joining the military. Some rights, such as those under the First Amendment, may be limited to protect national security. But the Fifth and Sixth amendments, the rights to remain silent and have an attorney present during a law enforcement interview or disciplinary investigation, are protected. “We’re the only ones who should be telling these clients or potential clients whether we can or can’t represent them,” Bayrak said. “We should be the only people saying what is or is not a service we provide.” ADC provides representation for a wide range of legal actions, from administrative to serious crimes. Services include: Article 15s Letters of counseling, admonishment or reprimand Demotions Discharges Officer-grade determinations for retirement Unfavorable information files In some instances, the charges or actions brought against an Airman can be downgraded or reduced. “The options are endless,” said Staff Sgt. Taraya Downhour, Area Defense Counsel paralegal. “There are so many things that command teams and supervisors can do in terms of discipline. Just because something is an Article 15 doesn’t mean it has be an Article 15, or just because something is an LOR doesn’t mean it has to be an LOR.” It’s never too late to seek counsel from ADC. Wright-Patt’s legal defense team encourages Airmen and Guardians to reach out for assistance at the earliest opportunity, even if they have already made statements to law enforcement, consented to search and seizure, or been involved in an administrative or miliary justice process. “If the Airmen could know something, just reach out. Reach out, reach out, reach out,” Downhour said. “We’re not here to judge them, we’re here to defend them. Lawyers are expensive and our services are free.” ADC is separate from the base legal office and reports to the Air Force Legal Operations Agency’s Trial Defense Division in Washington. More information about ADC can be found here: www.afjag.af.mil/Portals/77/documents/JAJD/ADC_Info.pdf?ver=2020-02-19-155834-377 .