JAG Airman provides unique service while deployed

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- At home stations many Air Force attorneys spend their days providing legal counsel and preparing legal documents, but for one Air Force captain being deployed means serving in a unique legal position.

Capt. Sophia Crawford, Multi-National Force-Iraq Office of the Staff Judge Advocate; Detention, Judicial and Legal Policy attorney, provides a service that she would normally never get to do outside the country of Iraq, as she is the U.S. legal representative that provides feedback on how the Iraq detention facilities perform with regard to legal issues.

"I specifically work in detention operations, so everything that has to with a detainee or anything potentially relating to a detainee is what I do," said Captain Crawford, who is deployed from Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala. "This could range from detainee deaths to detainee imagery. We also deal with interrogation procedures and provide legal reviews and advice to the MNF-I commanding general."

Captain Crawford said working in the Area of Responsibility is unique because she has to work from three different sides of the law.

"Just learning all the law has been a challenge, I mean we must have the appropriate authority to detain someone and authority to question someone, which has changed dramatically since the implementation of the Security Agreement post 1 Jan 09. It's a big realm of law, not only do we use United States law, but we use international law and abide by Iraqi law," said the Dallas native. "We have to coordinate and make sure we operate within all three, it's a lot of coordination with Iraq."

Air Force attorneys are compelled to view cases objectively and doing what is in the best interest of the United States.

"I am a JAG who represents the United States and it's my job to advocate for the commander. I'm also a prosecutor and it's my responsibility to make sure people are operating within the law," she said. "No matter who you are, you have to realize that detainees have rights."

The 30-person MNF-I legal team is a total force concept with Reserve and active-duty attorneys ranging from O-3s to O-6s in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and even the Australian army colonel is represented here.

"Air Force captains usually don't get to practice law in the AOR, it is a great opportunity to learn the different terms and practices they (co-workers) use," said Captain Crawford. "I have just learned so much, I am the junior ranking officer, so everyone is a mentor to me. It has been a great experience from the officer standpoint as well as a JAG."