North Dakota attorney heads up legal assistance office on Kosovo mission
1st Lt. Matthew E. Headley, Grand Forks, N.D., Spc. Chelsey M. Brenna, Mayville, N.D., and civilian employee Sasha Sokolovski staff the legal services office at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo - Like everyone else stationed here, 1st Lt. Matthew E. Headley needs to go through security to get on Camp Bondsteel. Eight years ago, though, it was Headley who was standing at the gate, working as a guard providing security at NATO camps in Bosnia.

"I graduated from Bemidji (Minn.) State and came over to Bosnia as a contractor for a year," he said. "I was just looking for something to do. I was doing security, base security like they do here."

Headley now works to provide a different sort of security. He is the chief of legal assistance and claims at Camp Bondsteel and heads an important three-person team that deals with a wide range of issues important to Soldiers away from home. The team does everything from filling out tax forms to addressing child support, landlord/tenant, mortgage and consumer matters.

Headley most recently deployed to Camp Bondsteel with the North Dakota National Guard as part of the Kosovo Forces (KFOR) 12 rotation, Multi-National Battle Group-East. He is about halfway through a one-year deployment to Kosovo. When he was in nearby Bosnia in 2002-2003, he worked at bases in Brcko, Tuzla and Samac. By that time, conditions in Bosnia were fairly secure.

"It was a stabilization mission," he said. "I worked at NATO bases like Camp Bondsteel. Some were small and some were big. They were multinational bases that included U.S. troops."
U.S. involvement in Bosnia, in general, ended in 2004. By that time, Headley was a student at the University of North Dakota School of Law in Grand Forks, N.D. He took his law school admission test while he was in Bosnia.

Headley stayed in Grand Forks after graduating from law school in 2007. He now works as a public defender in Minnesota's Ninth Judicial District, which encompasses the northwest region of the state.

Headley joined the Guard as an attorney in 2008, returning to the military after a 9-year break.

"I was prior service," he said. "I did active duty right after high school in 1995. I was a Cavalry Scout. I got out and started school at the end of 1997. The G.I. Bill paid for my entire undergrad."

Headley said that of all his experiences, his work at law school prepared him best for his job here at Camp Bondsteel.

"I did a lot of time in the clinic at UND doing legal assistance type work," he said. "We did a clinic where we went to the homeless shelter to see if anyone needed any assistance with anything. Then we did a mobile law clinic where we went around the state to give presentations on different topics."

Headley said he spent a lot of time while in the law clinic "trying to figure out different legal issues with no idea of where to begin."

"There's quite a variety of stuff going on here at Camp Bondsteel so it's been good that I had experience in the legal clinic to help me figure things out," he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16