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Face of Defense: Judge Advocate Brings Empathy to Position

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond, 111th Attack Wing DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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HORSHAM, Pa., Jan. 13, 2016 — In August 2014, Air Force 1st Lt. Hilary Styer, a member of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, began a whirlwind tour through the Judge Advocate General's Corps that -- by blending various active-duty assignments and drill-status Guardsman roles -- positioned her to fulfill the duties as the 111th Attack Wing's full-time deputy staff judge advocate here.

A journey that began and now continues at the 111th ATKW has been an excursion of empathy and of obtaining experience. These elements combine to create the case for Styer to be a considered a perfect fit for the Philadelphia area's only Air National Guard base.

"We're pleased to welcome [Styer] back to the wing," Pennsylvania Air National Guard Air Force Col. Howard L. Eissler, the 111th ATKW commander, said. "She was a practicing lawyer in the civilian sector before joining our unit and spent some time with us here before going off to [officer training school] and then volunteering for [multiple active-duty assignments]."

Styer worked for three years in criminal defense and family law before commissioning into the role of a drill-status Guardsman with the wing.

"Combine her direct civilian sector knowledge with the experience she obtained during her military assignments and I have high expectations," Eissler said.

Training and Experience

In 2014, Styer attended officer training school at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Immediately after graduating from OTS, she proceeded to technical training school for the Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course, also held at Maxwell AFB.

Styer said she recalled hearing about active-duty opportunities for Air National Guardsmen during her technical military training.

Upon graduation, she sought and secured a five-month, active-duty opening. In this role, she represented airmen as their cases were examined by the medical evaluation board and processed through the formal physical evaluation board at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

Conducting disability litigation, she helped service members as the boards determined whether or not they were entitled to a medical retirement or a discharge with severance pay.

"I was representing clients through that whole process and I learned a lot during my five months there," she said. "I ultimately want to help people, because a lot of people who are coming to see a lawyer are going through a difficult time in their life. If the roles were reversed, I would want my attorney to be empathic and listen to me."

Lawyers Speak for Others

According to Styer, being a lawyer is about speaking for the rights and interests of the client.

"I think that a lot of people who join public service want to help people," Styer said. "And that's my ultimate goal ... to help the mission, to help other airmen. I try to be empathetic and I like to think that I am."

When she finished working with the physical evaluation board, Styer searched for the next service prospect. Subsequently, that break came in the form of a 60-day tour at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

There, she played a key role in determining administrative discharges and providing legal assistance.

"Except for maybe adoption, normally when someone has to seek the help of a lawyer it's not for a good thing," Styer said. "For the most part, when you go to a lawyer it's because you're going through a difficult period of your life.”

Everyone “deserves a fair shake," she said.

Styer said that her background in family law, along with proficiencies gained through her assorted tours, provides a balance of familiarity and compassion that will prove beneficial as she serves as the wing's full-time deputy staff judge advocate.

And leaders here agree.

"Hopefully now that [Styer] is here, our members will take advantage of the legal benefits that she, and the office, can offer," Eissler said. "I'm confident that she will have a positive direct impact on our Guardsmen in both personal and professional matters."