An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsArticle Display

Vandenberg Area Defense Counsel works for those in need

In case of emergency, break glass.

In case of emergency, break glass.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An unsung hero is a person who makes an essential yet unrecognized contribution. If military members face a Letter of Reprimand or an Article 15, the Area Defense Counsel could be their unsung hero.

An independent entity at Vandenberg, the ADC falls under the Air Force Legal Operations Agency. Therefore, the ADC offers counsel free of pressure from a client's chain of command, said Capt. Michael Burnat, the area defense counsel here.

Captain Burnat's chain of command runs through Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C. This allows the ADC to stay clear of any conflict of interests involving the on base command, Captain Burnat said.

In addition, the ADC takes an honest approach at advising its clients in legal matters. It takes pride in offering its clients aggressive and honest legal advice and representation, said Captain Burnat.

"When a client receives advice from the ADC, they can expect to be told straight advice on where he or she stands," Captain Burnat said. "We're not in the business of sugar coating things."

By representing military members facing disciplinary action from military authorities, the ADC is focused on doing what is best for the individual they represent, even if it entails representing a client against the Air Force.

"If it is in the interest of the client, we will represent them against the U.S. government," said Tech. Sgt. William Howell, a defense paralegal here.

In order for the ADC to work effectively, counsel communications with the ADC is confidential and protected under law.

Potential clients shouldn't be worried about revealing sensitive information, Captain Burnat said.

"It is very important that we know up front the good and the bad about a matter in order to represent clients effectively," Captain Burnat said.

It represents clients through 20 different types of cases, including Letters of Reprimand, accident investigations and Articles 15, Captain Burnat said.

Vandenberg's ADC covers a wide range of Air Force personnel, not only at Vandenberg, but also over 2,000 Airmen at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif.

The ADC will sometimes get referrals from bases located on the west coast including Alaska, Captain Burnat said.

The ADC realizes the importance of people understanding their rights, urging people not to give statements when under investigation until they have spoken to an ADC representative.

A statement given prematurely, before the evidence against a client is shown, could potentially decide a case unfavorably for the client, depending on how that statement is construed, Captain Burnat said.

Often, the issue is not whether the client is going to make a statement, but when. The general philosophy is to wait until all parties are able to view the evidence the government has, he said.

Members of the Judge Advocate General Corps are some of the most distinguished and best legal representatives in the Air Force. Nominated by their commanders to exclusively defend fellow military members, a counselor must be experienced and good at litigation, Captain Burnat said.

The ADC can give, in some cases, essential career saving advice an Airman facing a discharge or a military disciplinary action. To some, this advice may go unnoticed, but to those in need, it would be heroic.

To learn how to contact the ADC, click here.