301 FW staff judge advocate, legal team provides disciplined, ready force

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeremy Roman, 301st Fighter Wing

The 301st Fighter Wing consists of various Airmen with different backgrounds and unique stories. It’s made of Reserve Citizen Airmen who bring specific skills from their civilian lives to impact the wing and in turn take what they learn at the wing and apply it to their everyday lives. These Airmen, with their particular stories and support from their family and employers, are the driving force behind the 301 FW mission—to train and deploy combat ready Airmen.

301 FW Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kwastel is one such individual who impacts the wing through his wealth of knowledge and experience.

“I am a Traditional Reservist [although I sometimes get asked if I’m full-time].  I served nearly five years on Active Duty as an Air Force judge advocate general [both at wing offices and as an area defense counsel],” said Kwastel.  “I [then] transitioned into the Air Force Reserve and I spent several years as a civilian white collar crime prosecutor and then working at an anti-corruption agency.  In 2015, I became a civilian Air Force attorney, first with the Air Force Services Center (AFSVC/JA) and then with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC/JA).  AFSVC/JA and AFCEC/JA later got absorbed into Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center (AFIMSC/JA), which is where I currently work.  As much as I loved working complex investigations and prosecutions, becoming an AF civilian attorney was a great opportunity – both personally and professionally!

Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Kwastel has over 16 years of Air Force service. He was on Active Duty status for nearly five years before transitioning into the Reserve. However, his military journey truly started when tragedy hit his native state.

“I was always interested in public service.  But, like a lot of people, I became interested in the military after 9/11. I was fortunate in that all of my friends and family escaped when the Twin Towers came down.  But I couldn’t shake the feeling that my country was at war and I had to try to do my part,” he recalled. “I applied to the USAF JAG Corps during law school and was fortunate enough to be accepted.  After graduating from law school at the University of Georgia, I took the bar, and shortly after finding out I passed, I went to Officer Training School and JAG School.”

The judge advocate general assignments are centrally managed by the JAG career field and that process brought him to the 301 FW three years ago.

“I was up for an assignment when the previous SJA was also selected to go to a new assignment,” Kwastel explained. “I was fortunate enough that our Reserve officer assignment team identified me during the assignments process for this great leadership opportunity!”

Kwastel would then lead a team of professionals whose efforts strive to support the wing with a combat-ready force. 

“What an awesome, hard-working, and talented team we’ve got in the JAG office!  It takes A LOT of work, much of it done at nights and on weekends, to deliver on-time, on-target, legal advice in a busy Cat A wing like 301 FW, said Kwastel. “I generally get to be the public face of the office.  But a lot of the heavy lifting is done by my team.”

The 301 FW JA team consists primarily of Traditional Reservists yet has been able to bring their best to the wing.

“I’m definitely proud of the way we’ve provided a near full-time level of support with an all TR office and have been able to help the wing navigate a lot of challenges during a critical time,” Kwastel said. “The thing I’m the most proud of though is feeling like we earned the trust and confidence of the people we worked with. One of the many things I’ve appreciated about my time here is how many people treat JA as a partner rather than an obstacle.”

The official USAF JAG motto is “Consilium, Virtus, Justitia”, which is Latin for “Wisdom, Valor, and Justice.” Lt. Col. Kwastel shares some of the skills needed for any Airman wanting to join the JA force.

“Working in JA definitely requires strong organizational skills because there’s always a ton of data to keep track of and a lot of moving parts in the legal process. I also think it requires an ability to follow facts to their natural conclusion. A lot of what we do when we talk with folks is to help them figure out what the facts of a situation actually are, which then tells us how to best address that situation,” Kwastel said.  “I also think a sense of humor is pretty important.  We can sometimes deal with grim, or at least stressful, situations.  An ability to laugh makes the tough times much more bearable.  Plus, believe it or not, it really makes the legal office a fun place to work.”

Working as a team while fitting into the overall mission is the key to wing success. JA is no different as they do their part for the 301 FW mission—to train and deploy combat-ready Airmen.

“I think the people we work with are often surprised by how many parts of wing operations with which JA is involved.  Most people would likely associated us with military justice, discharges, and maybe legal assistance because those are a big part of our workload,” Kwastel said. “But we also advise on ethics, criminal and administrative investigations, LODs and other medical-legal matters, operations, military personnel issues, fiscal law, and a variety of other matters.  All of those activities help support a disciplined, trained, and ready force.” 

Eventually Airmen fulfill their duty at a particular location and transition out to continue their careers as Kwastel will after his time here.

“I could fill an entire article with a list of people from 301 FW to thank, and stories about how they were great Airmen to work with and incredible wing men who were always there for me.  We talk a lot about the Air Force as a family.  But that’s something I really felt at 301 FW,” Kwastel concluded. “I definitely want to thank wing leadership and the wing commanders whom I’ve worked for over these past three years, for allowing me to have the opportunity to be SJA and lead such an incredible legal office.  And, I definitely, definitely, want to thank my family.  My family, like the families of everyone who wears the uniform, has made sacrifices so I can serve.”

Kwastel is headed to the 7th Bomb Wing JA office, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas to become the next Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the SJA.

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