Camp Zama Legal Assistance Office earns Army-level award again

By Sean Kimmons, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsMay 27, 2024

Kent Herring, left, chief of the Camp Zama Legal Assistance Office, speaks with John Simon, a paralegal, inside the office located in the U.S. Army Japan headquarters building at Camp Zama, Japan, May 20, 2024. The office recently earned the 2023 Army Chief of Staff Award for Excellence in Legal Assistance for its support to the community.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Kent Herring, left, chief of the Camp Zama Legal Assistance Office, speaks with John Simon, a paralegal, inside the office located in the U.S. Army Japan headquarters building at Camp Zama, Japan, May 20, 2024. The office recently earned the 2023 Army Chief of Staff Award for Excellence in Legal Assistance for its support to the community. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
The certificate for the 2023 Army Chief of Staff Award for Excellence in Legal Assistance is displayed outside the Camp Zama Legal Assistance Office located in the U.S. Army Japan headquarters building at Camp Zama, Japan, May 20, 2024. The office recently earned the award for its support to the community.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The certificate for the 2023 Army Chief of Staff Award for Excellence in Legal Assistance is displayed outside the Camp Zama Legal Assistance Office located in the U.S. Army Japan headquarters building at Camp Zama, Japan, May 20, 2024. The office recently earned the award for its support to the community. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The Legal Assistance Office here recently secured another big win after being named the best in the Army among small installations in fiscal 2023.

The office, which is overseen by two U.S. Army Garrison Japan employees, previously earned the Army Chief of Staff Award for Excellence in Legal Assistance in 2018 as well as 17 other times since 1990.

“It recognizes the initiatives we’ve taken here to support eligible clients,” Kent Herring, chief of the office, said of the award. “There’s a lot of competition across the Army. A lot of offices are trying to have initiatives and create some new things, so it feels good to be recognized.”

Last year, the office achieved a 100% satisfied customer feedback rating through the Interactive Customer Evaluation system, placing it at the top of all customer service providers within U.S. Army Japan.

The office also worked with the Japanese Employment Service Office to convert and upgrade a local national administrative assistant position to a legal adviser position. Once filled, the new position will increase the office’s host nation legal capabilities.

Other accomplishments included helping develop a “marriage in Japan” brief for the community, contributing to the Emergency Family Assistance Center program and exercise, and participating in Japan-wide legal assistance training involving each service’s legal assistance office.

“The Army Legal Assistance Program is a critical factor in the quality of life in this [overseas] community,” said Maj. Gen. Dave Womack, commander of USARJ. “I am proud of the outstanding legal services provided to the community.”

John Simon, a paralegal who was part of the office’s previous win in 2018, also earned the USAG Japan employee of the year award last year.

“It’s not a coincidence that we won it last time when John was here and then we won this time,” Herring said. “He constantly gets really strong feedback. A lot of that has to do with what he does, creating that good interaction with people.”

Simon, who served a similar role as a Soldier, said the small but mighty team here strives to go out of its way to support community members.

“I love doing my work and it’s always a positive environment helping people out,” Simon said. “It’s kind of nice going to work every day [and] making an impact.”

The office provides almost all services civilian attorneys offer, except representation in civilian court.

Services include powers of attorney; wills; family law, including divorce and adding a member to the family; Status of Forces Agreement issues; financial liability investigations; general office of reprimands and more.

The services are available for free to active-duty military, retirees, reservists who are serving on orders, Department of Defense civilians, civilian contractors and their family members.

Simon said legal fees outside the gate can sometimes be costly. Notarizations, for instance, may cost 5,000 yen per page, whereas the legal office here does not charge for them.

“We’re here to serve the community,” he said. “Whether you think it’s legal related or not, call us and we’ll screen you and we’ll try to help with what we can. If we can help, we will help. If it’s a different service, we can refer you.”

Herring said laws and processes can be more convoluted in Japan than in the United States. He said the office will sometimes reach out to the U.S. Embassy to tackle certain issues.

Herring, a former judge advocate general officer who served in Japan, said he and Simon can also lean on their years of know-how when encountering difficult legal situations.

“Because of our experience in Japan and the legal depth of knowledge [we have], we feel like we’re able to help people,” he said. “Even though there are two of us, it’s not very often where we’re at a loss.”

That level of expertise is important since community members may face a limited number of options for legal assistance in Japan.

“We try to find ways to help people here,” Herring said. “A lot of clients don’t have other places to go, so that kind of puts a little bit more emphasis on, ‘Let’s see what we can do to help you.’”

[Editor’s Note: For more information on the office or its services, call DSN: 262-4698/3400 or go to www.usarj.army.mil/staff/sja/lao.]

Related links:

U.S. Army Garrison Japan news

USAG Japan official website