COVID-19 changed the way the 436th Airlift Wing Legal Office at Dover Air Force Base operates to continue providing legal assistance for military justice cases to Airmen and commanders.
Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State of Delaware and the 436th AW commander, the legal office shifted to conducting most appointments over the phone and reducing in-office hours.
“Most of us are working from home right now, and we’ve split up days to do legal assistance over the phone,” says Capt. Marc Nevenis, 436th AW Legal Office chief of military justice. “We used to do powers of attorney and notaries daily, but right now we’re only doing those services and walk-ins on Fridays, because that’s the only day we have people physically in the office.”
Some services require an in-person signature with a visual witness in order to meet compliance mandates. Members of the legal team who must be in the office to conduct in-person services wear masks, practice social distancing and ask people to bring their own pens. The office split into two teams that work on a rotating schedule to reduce the spread of the virus while continuing to cover all legal facets.
“We can always maintain a ready force to continue to support the mission in the event one member is exposed, and we can minimize the risk of exposing others,” said 1st Lt. Heather Bezold, 436th AW Legal Office chief of legal assistance.
Changing how the office operates does not hinder its ability to provide quality legal assistance and counsel to Dover Airmen. The effects of COVID-19 shut down courts, providing a challenge for legal Airmen to work around; however, whether it be over the phone or in person, the members of the 436th AW Legal Office work in stride to aid members who need it most.
“The courts are closed down, so a lot of the legal issues that they’re trying to handle aren’t able to be handled currently in the crisis,” said Bezold. “We’re still making sure that we’re still providing people with the best possible service that we can.”
Despite the hindrances posed by COVID-19, the legal office continues to maintain high productivity amidst the challenges of manning situations and service changes. Many legal members are looking to get back into the office and build in-person relationships once again.
“Meeting people face-to-face and helping them through tough times or prepare for deployment means a lot to us, and it is still strange to not get that connection,” said Bezold. “We are all looking forward to the day we can go back to the office and be around others again.”