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AAFB JA office implements new DOD-wide training requirement at military justice symposium

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Miyah Gray
  • 97th Air mobility Wing Public Affairs

The 97th Air Mobility Wing Judge Advocate office hosted a military justice symposium for base leaders at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Oct. 23, 2023.
The purpose of the symposium was to provide a platform for commanders, senior enlisted leaders, and first sergeants to come together and discuss military justice updates.

This in-person training, mandated by the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps, was designed to ensure that all commanders receive information about recent historical changes to the Manual for Courts-Martial. The 97th Air Mobility Wing JA office took the initiative to include this training as part of their annual military justice symposium. Lt Col Ben Henley, Office of Special Trial Counsel District 4 chief, and Maj. Christopher Mitchell, Headquarters Air Force chief of joint service policy and legislation, briefed all of the new updates during the symposium.

Part of this discussion was an executive order made earlier this year that shifted some decision-making authority from military commanders to specialized military prosecutors, known as the Office of Special Trial Counsel, involving cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, murder and other serious offences.

The Department of the Air Force established an Office of Special Trial Counsel on June 15 this year, led by an O-7 judge advocate who reports directly to the Secretary of the Air Force.

The changes were made after an independent review commission of sexual assault within the military was formed, recommending moving prosecution of sexual assault outside a military member’s chain of command.

“OSTC will have the exclusive authority to refer and prosecute covered offenses committed on or after Dec. 28, 2023, such as murder, sexual offenses, and other serious crimes,” said Lt. Col. Velma Thompson, 97th Air Mobility Wing staff judge advocate. “It is also important to note that commanders will still maintain a lot of control over various aspects of the military justice system.”

The OSTC will go into full effect on Dec. 28, 2023, providing a fair and ethical legal process for military members and ensuring unbiased decisions are made based on facts and evidence.

“This is a huge step in the right direction for victims as it eliminates the possibility of command influence in the prosecution of certain crimes,” said Christopher Hargis, 97th Air Mobility Wing integrated prevention and response director. “By having an outside counsel take on all cases of certain crimes, it ensures consistent standards across the entire Air Force.”

For more information, contact Altus AFB’s legal office at (580) 481-7294.