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Patrick Legal Office named best in 14th Air Force

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The 45th Space Wing's Legal Office has been named the top legal office of the year by 14th Air Force.

"I am most proud of the team work of the legal office to accomplish the mission," said Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Larry Lohman.

"Whatever the challenge - legal assistance, military justice, or PT goals -- the legal office pulls together as a team and makes it happen. This team effort combined with a 'can do' attitude impresses me on a daily basis."

From July 2007 to June 2008, the JAG office saw 3,200 office visits from 2,462 satisfied customers. More than 800 wills and 2,200 powers of attorney were drawn up, and 2,300 documents notarized. Clients saved more than $500,000 in legal fees by using the base as opposed to a civilian lawyer.

One program that was very popular was the tax preparation service. With the help of retiree volunteers, the office helped 815 clients receive $725,496 in tax refunds and saved over $163,000 in preparation fees.

Besides providing legal assistance to the base populace and a community of nearly 55,000 retirees, the JAG office also prosecutes active duty members who commit crimes. One recent case involved a recruiter charged with abusing his authority and preying on potential recruits. The member was sentenced to 10 months of confinement, reduction of rank, and a bad conduct discharge.

"This behavior is unacceptable and shed a negative light on the Air Force," said Colonel Lohman. "The sentence let the public and potential recruits know that the Air Force does not tolerate such behavior."

Despite the high operational tempo, made all the more challenging by the deployment of a third of the office's personnel in the past year, time was still found for teambuilding activities. The office members do group physical training three days a week.

"I believe that taking care of people is the key - people will do their best when they feel that their work is appreciated and worthwhile," said Colonel Lohman.

To that end, one tradition the office started is the "Whatever cup", which is filled with candy and other goodies, and passed each week to another staff member as determined by the prior winner.

"It's peer recognition at its best," said Colonel Lohman.