AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
After returning from a two-week mission in Iraq, a Marine makes a call to his wife, assuring her that he has returned safely. She is relieved, but panic creeks into her voice as she tells him that creditors have been calling their home asking about mortgage payments and threatening foreclosure. She anxiously asks her husband what went wrong and how to deal with it. The Marine is baffled, and he knows he needs legal assistance.
Though this is an imagined scenario, if it were to happen, it is where the Multi National Force - West Legal Services Support Team comes in. They provide legal assistance and advice to deployed service members. This professional team of legal gurus deals with military justice, family law, divorce, separation, Service Members Civil Relief Act, landlord/tenant issues, powers of attorney, wills, immigration and much, much more.
You will get Marines who are extremely happy with the advice you give them, and sometimes they aren't so happy, explained Capt. Keith Anthony, a trial counsel and legal assistance officer for the LSST. But, people that we can give advice to and help through a tough time - that's the most important thing for us.
The team currently consists of only three Marines, Anthony, Staff Sgt. Brandi Falcon, legal chief, and Capt. Terence Kiernan, defense counsel officer. At most, the LSST has only had five members working together at one time, but this small section has handled an immense amount of work.
The staff have been extremely motivated - everything has gone well, said Kiernan. They're doing a great job.
As for the most important part of their work, Kiernan believes every service member's issue is of equal magnitude.
I don't think you can determine what the most important thing is we've done. What we're helping someone with is the most important thing to us at that point.
This job is one that gives back. A few of the team's accomplishments include saving a service member's house from foreclosure, helping numerous service members gain U.S. citizenship, and helping Iraqi interpreters who have worked for the U.S. government for more than a year acquire their green cards.
Like any job, there are good days and there are bad days, said Anthony. But, I think when we look back on it, we will be happy with the Marines we've been able to help, the commands we've been able to help, and the fact that we've done something most people don't do.
The team is preparing to wind down and redeploy in the next few months, but the peace of mind and sound advice they have freely provided to deployed service members has changed many lives forever.