By Maj. Matthew DevivoSeptember 6, 2012
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Maj. Danny Britt, the 113th Sustainment Brigade's staff judge advocate, or senior attorney, runs a section of seasoned law professionals and first timers in military justice here.
"For the past six months, we have ensured soldiers and commanders across the brigade receive the best legal advice and counsel available," Britt said.
The brigade staff judge advocate section consists of four attorneys and seven paralegals, who manage everything from standard legal paperwork, such as a power of attorney or a mortgage notarization, to high-profile special court martial proceedings.
Capt. Matt Gates, the brigade's chief administrative attorney and member of the South Carolina Army National Guard, is on his first deployment.
"This experience has been great for my overall professional growth and has shown me the types of challenges that lawyers and the legal staff have to manage in an environment other than the normal weekend drills and two week annual training," Gates said.
Capt. Fred Gore, the brigade's military trial counsel, provides legal advice to commanders and soldiers involved in an investigation or other situations where the Uniform Code of Military Justice applies.
Gore is on his second overseas deployment with the North Carolina Army National Guard. During his first deployment Gore was a sergeant and paralegal with 105th Engineer Battalion. Since then he has earned his law degree, passed the bar, and become an officer in the Guard.
"I've been in the North Carolina National Guard for almost 20 years," Gore said. "Being a prior enlisted soldier, working with the infantry and combat engineers, has greatly enhanced my ability to better understand and advise soldiers at the lowest squad level, and at the same time provide sound counsel to company and battalion commanding officers whose job it will be to administer fair punishment, if that's the final judgment."
Gore and Britt both had high praise for the Steel Brigade's paralegal team.
"Without the hard work of our section's paralegals we wouldn't be nearly as effective. They keep this section running and we couldn't do this job without them," said Gore.
The brigade's seven paralegals support the 113th's four battalions and run the brigade legal office. The paralegals all work in the brigade judge advocate's office, a move that has enhanced the overall quality of work and management of the many different types of cases that the brigade reviews, they said.
Sgt. Stewart Williams, a paralegal with the 821st Transportation Battalion, a U.S. Army Reserve unit from Topeka, Kan., said he enjoys his job.
"My first deployment to Iraq was in operations," he said. "On this deployment, I am working full-time as a paralegal. I have been involved in many important events and have enjoyed working with the battalions and company commanders."
During the height of the Iraq drawdown last December, Williams oversaw the legal management of more than 1,000 soldiers with the 821st.
"My job is to advise and assist the battalion commander on all legal actions within the unit, and that was quite a daunting task," he said. "You need to have excellent communications skills, written and oral, and be able to thoroughly research topics assigned, and then with the knowledge gained from that research, brief a lieutenant colonel or full bird colonel. Confidence in your abilities is an important trait in being a paralegal."
Britt said he is very proud of the team with him on this deployment.
"This deployment has challenged us all," he said. "When we arrived here the brigade was at a strength of over 2,700 soldiers. We were sprinting right out of the gate, and it didn't stop for the first two months here."
Britt had nothing but praise for his staff.
"Our paralegals are the best I have ever worked with," he said. "Fred Gore and I deployed together before, and I know he'd agree that the lawyers we have here are doing a great job supporting the soldiers and commanders of the 113th Sustainment Brigade. This has been an education for us all."
Britt said flexibility is a key part of mission success.
"In this type of deployment, if you are not flexible and adaptive and ready for all the legal challenges that await you, your team will not succeed," he said. "Together, we have served our soldiers, our brigade and our country proudly."