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LA AFB lawyer takes top honor in ABA essay contest

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- “When you do something, you should be proud enough about it to sign your name to it,” is a quote from the Douglas Drewry book, “Successful Leadership Today.”

Proudly signing his name to an award-winning essay demonstrates the recent achievement of Space and Missile Systems Center’s Office of the Staff Judge Advocate Capt. Charles Kels, assistant staff judge advocate, who won first place in the 2005 American Bar Association Legal Assistance for Military Personnel Essay Contest. 

In the essay titled, “Back to the Future: A Return to First Principles,” Captain Kels advocates that legal assistance should become a statutory entitlement.

“Few areas of our practice touch the everyday lives of Airmen so significantly as does the Air Force Legal Assistance Program,” said Col. Scott Singer, SMC Staff Judge Advocate General.

“Providing top quality advice for Airmen facing personal legal situations requires a personal commitment to excellence by all our legal assistance officers, and Captain Kel’s decision to enter the essay writing contest demonstrates he has made that commitment,” said Colonel Singer.

“I entered the contest because I really wanted to answer the essay question that the committee asked,” said Captain Kels. The essay proposed that submissions identify what the writer believes the future should hold for legal assistance and develop arguments to support each point.

Captain Kels entered the contest last year and has entered several writing contests, but the 2005 contest is his first win.

“The LAMP committee shapes the larger policy of the military legal assistance program,” said Captain Kels, “and the essay contest is a chance for the committee to hear from the base-level JAGs who are actually practicing legal assistance day to day.

“Even though I never thought my essay would win, there were some points that I really wanted to make to the committee. It was a rare chance to have a policy maker hear my point of view,” he said.

The annual LAMP Essay Contest was conceived to promote open and thoughtful discourse on timely legal assistance topics. The contest invites submissions that challenge conventional wisdom by proposing modifications to current directives, policies and practices relating to military legal assistance and preventive law.