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12-31-06, 08:38 AM #1
What Is It With The Air Force JAG Corps?
What Is It With The Air Force JAG Corps?
CORRECTION: In his December 20, 2006 article at DefenseWatch, Sr. Editor Paul Connors, citing information excerpted from the December 18 issue of AF Times incorrectly identified Bri. Gen. Richard S. Hassan as a senior Air Force JAG officer. Information gleaned from a correction posted in the December 25, 2006 issue of AF Times revealed that General Hassan was a line officer. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused.
By Paul Connors
They caught another one! Another senior Air Force JAG has made the hit parade of those senior officers who are ethically challenged and have finally been found out.
It seems that Colonel Michael D. Murphy, JAG Corps, USAF has been living a lie for more than 20 years. According to reports in the December 18, 2006 issue of Air Force Times, Colonel Murphy has been practicing law in the Air Force for more than 20 years, but he’s been doing so without a license! Until being found out, Colonel Murphy had been the Commander of Air Force Legal Operations Agency. He was relieved of his command on November 30, 2006 and assigned to duties not involving the practice of law. As the commander of the service’s Legal Operations Agency, Colonel Murphy had the responsibility for overseeing both the criminal justice processes and the civil litigation programs for the Air Force. The problem was, this vital part of the Air Force’s military justice system was led by an officer who had lost his license to practice law in two states. Colonel Murphy had been disbarred in Texas in 1984 and Louisiana in 1985. Colonel Murphy then violated Air Force JAG standards in that he never informed his superiors that he had been stripped of his license to practice law.
Sadly, the revelations first made public in Air Force Times again calls into question the leadership of an Air Force organization that is supposed to be led by people of unquestioned integrity. The last two years have seen several “black eyes” inflicted on the leadership of the JAG Corps. In January 2005, the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force, then Major General Thomas J. Fiscus was investigated for misconduct that included charges of conduct unbecoming an officer, unprofessional relationships, fraternization and obstruction of justice for the deletion of emails that would have incriminated him from his Air Force computer systems. General Fiscus was demoted two grades and ordered to retire as a Colonel.
Less than six months later, In June 2005, a senior Air Force officer lost his job for similar misconduct. Brig. Gen. Richard S. Hassan was relieved of his position as the director of the Air Force Senior Leadership Management office in Washington, D.C. The charges? That Brig. Gen. Hassan had maintained inappropriate relationships with female subordinates and that these relationships had been numerous.
Prior to his most recent assignment, Colonel Murphy served as general counsel to the White House Military Office. He held that position from December 2001 to January 2003 and again from August 2003 until January 2005.
And perhaps even more ironic, Colonel Murphy, in his status as a disbarred attorney also served as the Commandant of the Air Force Judge Advocate General School, Maxwell AFB, AL from January to June 2005. It is this very same school where newly commissioned Air Force JAG officers receive their introduction to the practice of military law. While some of these officers had previous service in the Air Force or other services, the JAG course at Maxwell AFB is where they receive their consecration as “military officers of the court.”
Under normal circumstances, the brief review of a resume like this would be the type of career an up and coming JAG would hope and pray for. Colonel Murphy lived this life and while he did so, he lived a lie. He also betrayed his oath as an officer, he betrayed his profession and he betrayed the superiors in the service he had entered so many years before.
What is also very important to remember is that Colonel Murphy’s entire career as a JAG officer has been based on a lie. According to the records, he has legally been ineligible to practice law for more than 22 years in Texas and 21 in Louisiana. Yet without informing his superiors as he was required to do, he continued to practice law. He represented to his fellow JAGs, to commanders he supported and senior leaders throughout the service and government that he was an attorney on good standing.
At this time, the Air Force has not commented on whether or not Colonel Murphy will face criminal charges upon the completion of its investigation. However, the Air Force Times article, written by Erik Holmes, quoted retired JAG Lt Colonel John J. Michels who opined that he believed that Colonel Murphy could face charges of perjury for each case he tried as a prosecutor. He stated, “The perjury is that he’s under oath in front of a judge telling the judge that he has not acted in a manner that might tend to disqualify him.” Mr. Michels also added that, “It’s recited before every trial.”
“Not acting in a manner that might disqualify him.” I’d have to say that the state bars of Texas and Louisiana had done that for him in 1984 and 1985, respectively. From those dates forward, Colonel Murphy might have been an officer, but he was no longer a licensed attorney. Yet, he continued to pass himself off as one. So much for Air Force core values.
One of the problems with these tales of woe afflicting the Air Force JAG corps is that their revelations continue to exacerbate the beliefs by other members of the service that there are two standards applied when it comes to the UCMJ. The rank and file will tell you that should they ever make a mistake that has them facing a court-martial, that the full weight of the system will fall on them. But when a senior field grade or general officer breaks the rules, they are generally allowed to retire without facing criminal charges or loss of pension. This is the perception that service members have when they read stories like those of former generals Fiscus, and Hassan and Colonel Murphy.
So what is it with the senior officers in the Air Force’s JAG Corps? Do they think that because they have reached the pinnacles of their careers that the rules and regulations don’t apply to them? Do they think that regulations and the UCMJ apply only to lesser mortals? Have they developed some form of twisted entitlement mentality that allows them, in their minds at least, to justify the abuse of the authority and position that their careers have brought them to? It sure seems that way.
Colonel Murphy is just the most recent of the scandals that have repeatedly embarrassed the Air Force. His ethical challenges however, are not recent. Murphy is a graduate of the University of Texas, School of Law. According to the reportage by the Air Force Times, his first trouble before the bar came in 1981. At that time, he failed to file a timely appeal for a client convicted of burglary. He then told the client an appeal was pending (a lie). In 1982, the state of Texas sued Murphy and accused him of professional misconduct. His license to practice was suspended for seven years. In January 1983, Murphy applied for admission to the bar in Louisiana and denied ever having been sued or being the subject of disciplinary action (another lie). Murphy joined the Air Force as a JAG in November 1983 while still under suspension by Texas but before he had been disbarred by either state. Eventually, both Texas and Louisiana became aware of Murphy’s dishonest oath on his application for admission to the bar in the latter state and disbarred him permanently. Texas acted first in 1984 and Louisiana followed in 1985. Colonel Murphy is not, according to records, licensed in any other state and as a result, has been practicing law illegally for the United States government for more than twenty years.
The subterfuge that Colonel Murphy resorted to has finally been revealed and hopefully, nothing like this will happen again. Before this incident, the Air Force accepted at face value the admissions by its JAG officers that they were what they said they were, namely officers of the court, legally licensed to practice in one or more of the states or territories of the United States. Now, the Murphy affair has had the positive net result of shining light on a system that was flawed. Going forward, every Air Force JAG will have to prove and be able to continue to prove that they are legally licensed to practice law in the United States and that they are a member of a state bar association in good standing. Colonel Murphy’s misconduct has brought to the light of day the need for a constant and workable system for the verification of the credentials of those officers who would practice law for the Air Force.
For the non-lawyers of the Air Force, especially commanders who rely on JAG officers for legal advice and counsel, the misconduct by these three senior legal officers must raise disturbing questions. Can they count on the integrity of their JAGs? Can I be sure if I prosecute a member for an offense under the UCMJ, that I have an honest and dedicated officer representing the best interests of the service and the United States? As a commander, do I need to ask to see this officer’s bar membership card to determine if he/she is legitimate?
The misconduct of the three senior Air Force JAG officers eluded public scrutiny during a time when these same officers should have been particularly cognizant of the roles they played within the Air Force. The service has enough problems without having to create more by sweeping under the rug, the dishonest actions of a few at the top who think they are above the law.
The Air Force and the nation deserve better. These three so-called “officers” failed the test.
Copyright 2006, Paul Connors. Paul Connors is a Sr. Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please send your comments to email@example.com
12-31-06, 08:39 AM #2
Why Did the Air Force Borrow its ABU from A Defeated Army?
By Paul Connors
The new Air Force Battle Uniform (ABU), love it or hate it. That seems to be the consensus among the thousands of airmen who have provided feedback to Air Force leadership through website feedback forums, talks with the last two Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force and in letters to the editor at Air Force Times. The process to replace the current woodland and desert pattern BDUs started in 2003 with what many airmen decried as a “clown outfit.” Many, this writer included scoffed at the horrible choice of colors, the blue, gray, green color scheme in a tiger stripe pattern. Not only were Air Force personnel horrified and disgusted, but members of the Army and Marine Corps were lining up to make jokes about the lack of camouflage and the colors that would have rendered the uniform all but useless in the field.
So here we are, more than three years later and the Air Force is announcing once again that the design has been finalized. But has it really? The t-shirt to be worn underneath has not and that decision is still deferred pending a decision as to what Air Force symbol will be emblazoned across the left breast of the shirt.
The digitized pattern, commonly called the “tiger stripe” is still there, but with modified colors. Now, instead of the totally worthless original color scheme, the uniform will be predominantly gray, green, tan and some blue. The ABU jacket will have a strong resemblance to the current BDU shirt with its four pockets. As a sop to the airmen who asked for additional usable features like those found on the Army and Marine Corps combat uniforms, the Air Force has added a small, thin vertical pocket for a pen on the forearm of the left sleeve. There will be no shoulder pockets for those who will be wearing body armor. Additionally, there will be no unit patches and Air Force personnel will not be authorized to wear the shoulder insignia of Army units to which they have been assigned.
The days of the black combat boot are fading fast. First the Marines, then the Army adopted no-shine boots. The Air Force has done the same and the new ABU will get its own boot, this time made from a rough side out leather in “chameleon green. It’s supposed to pick up and better reflect the colors found in the uniform’s jacket and trousers.
Like so many folks interested in what goes on in the Air Force, I’ve watched with my own mixture of amusement, disgust and outrage. It’s pretty obvious that this new uniform is the brainchild of one or two people on the Air Staff. I’d be willing to bet that this abortion of a uniform is the brainchild of none other than the Chief of Staff himself, General Michael Moseley.
General Moseley has been tinkering around the edges of the Air Force and its uniforms since he first became the CSAF. He claims to have a deep and abiding interest in Air Force heritage and history. Really?
Well, if that were the case, why would he select for adoption by the nation’s youngest service, the battle uniform of a defeated army? What Army is that, you ask? Why it’s the ARVN. All of our Vietnam veteran readers remember them: they were officially known as the Army of the Republic of Vietnam or ARVN for short. The acronym comes from the French designation (Armee de Republique Viet-Namiene).
The Vietnamese tiger stripe worn by many of their elite units such as the Vietnamese Marine Corps, their airborne division, the Rangers and the ARVN Special Forces (LLDB – or Luc Luong Dac Biet) proved to be an effective camouflage pattern – in the jungle covered hillsides and rice paddies of South Vietnam. Will it be as effective where members of today’s Air Force serve and fight? That remains to be seen.
But the South Vietnamese can’t even take credit for the camouflage pattern that the “oh so fashion conscious” leaders of the USAF saw fit to requisition. The ARVN tiger stripe pattern was itself a derivative design modified from one worn by members of the French Colonial Paratroops and the Foreign Legion during France’s war in Indo-China. The French pattern was their version of the paratrooper smock worn by British paratroopers throughout Normandy and the battle of Arnhem in 1944. The French uniform, known in French military circles as the “lizard pattern”, came into its own and service wide issuance to all airborne and many no-airborne personnel during the war in Algeria. French paratroops and legionnaires continued to wear versions of this pattern until the late 1980s, when they adopted a BDU uniform remarkably similar in pattern and colors to our woodland pattern BDU.
While many active duty airmen and officers would love to speak out against this latest top-down imposed uniform fiasco, they dare not. They know what happens to those who protest the pet projects of the perfumed princes on the Air Staff. It is well known that the early 1990s decision by then Chief of Staff, General Merrill McPeak to redesign the service dress uniform was unpopular at all levels of the service. Despite the rancor from below, McPeak was reputed to be completely disinterested in real feedback. The mediocre Air Force service dress uniform was his only real legacy of his tenure as the Air Force’s senior uniformed leader.
So now, we have another uniform disaster on our hands. Sadly, active duty personnel, both officer and enlisted will now have to dig into their pockets to buy new ABUs, boots and the outer shell jacket (which buy itself will cost $173.25.
As a taxpayer, I am truly appalled that Air Force senior leadership wastes its time on such silly and mundane tasks. Once again, this latest blunder confirms to me that Air Force generals should not be left alone without real adult supervision.
What is with these guys? They violate the rules, they often get away with it, they think that everyone shares their pet ideas of what should be done to enhance the Air Force’s image and its heritage and then they feel they have to leave an imprint like these botched uniform projects.
What’s really frightening is that it costs the taxpayers and the men and women who do the real work around the Air Force real money when these egomaniacs screw up.
I’m beginning to think that some of the folks I know, who think the Air Force should be rolled back into the Army may have a real idea after all.
Copyright 2006, Paul Connors. Paul Connors is a Sr. Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
I find the title “Air Force Battle Uniform” or “ABU” an oxymoron. Now, to be sure, there are small groups of non flyers in the Air Force who are deployed with ground forces and they might even see some combat. But the majority of the ‘Air’ Force that does any fighting, or risk finding themselves behind enemy lines, are the flyers. And only a very small percentage of Air Force flyers do anything tactical. Wouldn’t it make more sense, financially and tactically, to simply use existing BDU’s that have been proven by the Marines and the Army rather than this ridiculous scheme? I remember flying in the first Gulf War with a green flight suit and Vietnam era jungle boots. That would be a big help against the sands of Iraq. It took years to get brown flight suits. Unfortunately, T. Michael Moseley, William Fraser and the other Pentagon drones are quite incapable of grasping the real issues and continue to focus on the periphery. Until they are removed and put to pasture where they belong nothing substantial will change.
12-31-06, 08:40 AM #3
From the Editor:
I’ve been embarrassed by the Air Force before but, until this little story broke, never ashamed. I’ve been embarrassed by enlisted troops on their first tour that wear three rows of ribbons. I’m embarrassed by officers who wear a flight suit, sit behind a Predator console and put themselves in for Air Medals. I’m embarrassed by a bloated bureaucracy that would rather wear blues and work from eight to four thirty every day than serve in combat. Most of all, I’ve been embarrassed by the Air Force’s notion that combat can be fought from forty thousand feet or from an air conditioned van in the Nevada desert.
But I knew there were others. Men and, yes, even a few women, who would strap on a jet and bring it to the enemy. Even if that meant breaking the ‘rules’ and going in at 100 feet and 500 knots to get the job done with a cannon because all the smart weapons weren’t actually that smart. I knew that there were unarmed tanker crews who would fly into surface to air missile rings to bring me gas because I wouldn’t make it out otherwise. I knew that there was a long, sweaty unheralded line of dedicated logisticians, crew chiefs and maintenance folks that always made it possible for me to do my job.
This was my Air Force.
Not the bozos who dry cleaned their BDU’s, shined their boots and conducted sock checks. My Air Force was the Dirty Shirt Air Force. They smelled of hot metal, oil and body odor. But they are the tiny minority that permits the rest to exist.
I’ve even been ashamed of people I’ve served with. Men who fake injury like Maury Forsythe and Tim Collins so they can wear that little Purple Heart ribbon on their narrow chests. Chameleon cowards like Jimmy Clarke who sell out brother officers to curry favor with generals. The list is long and, unfortunately, not only confined to me. Every tactical officer I know has their own Hall of Shame.
These things are to be expected in any large organization. Especially a Paper Tiger like the modern Air Force. But this last episode is so shameful, so crushingly abhorrent that it must be exposed. And it must be stopped.
Outsourcing the human remains of American fighting soldiers?
Outsourcing is what you do with trash collection and grounds maintenance. You do not put a price on the bodies of our fighting soldiers. If you have one shred of decency, one tiny glimmer of the respect due to the dead you do not do this. If you do then you are without a soul.
I am appalled and deeply ashamed.
Deeply ashamed that I belonged to such a service for twenty years. I fought in both Gulf Wars and always believed that if I’d been killed my service would have at least done me the honor due someone who has given the ultimate sacrifice.
It never occurred to me that my remains would be ‘outsourced’. That my military would think so little of me that they would mail my body bag home in Third Class mail courtesy of the lowest bidder. It never occurred to me that my country would permit it.
Who thinks this up? Who is the empty hearted, penny pinching money grubber who proposes something this shameful? More to the point, who puts it into a nauseating, standard Air Force PowerPoint presentation and which perfumed, pampered general officer signs off on it? A coffee sipping, desk bound Pretender who can only think of another star to match his expanding waistline? Or simply a faceless, non thinking drone stealing oxygen at the Pentagon.
Who are they? I don’t know yet. But I will make a promise...I’m going to find out.
In the meantime I urge all of you to contact your congressional representatives and let them know how utterly offensive this course of action is. And we, as Americans, regardless of the myriad differences, opinions and politics that divide us, can not allow this deplorable course of action to proceed. They were our sons and our daughters; our brothers and our sisters. Our comrades.
Surely they deserve better than this so let’s make sure they get it.
Thank you and keep the faith.
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