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Military justice 101

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Understanding the Uniform Code of Military Justice can be confusing and is different than the civilian legal system to which most are accustomed, but the 21st Space Wing legal office is hoping to change that.

The Area Defense Council has put together is series of free classes modeled in part after the legal studies class taught to all cadets at the Air Force Academy. Classes range from a brief overview of the military justice system to freedom of speech.

"We wanted to offer these classes simply to help the members of Team Pete to better understand how the justice process works in the military," said Capt. Nathaniel Himert, 21st Space Wing chief of military justice and class presenter. "Anyone could be called to be a witness, to serve on a court-martial panel or find themselves suspected of a crime. We want to pull back the veil on the process."

The classes are open to all ranks but are geared more toward people with less understanding of the UCMJ system.

"Really we think anyone would benefit from attending the course. While commanders and first sergeants may know a little more about the system simply because of their jobs, we believe everyone can get something useful from these classes," said Himert.

The UCMJ system can be complicated and a little confusing at times which causes some misunderstanding and misconceptions that people tend to believe are fact.

"The biggest misconception is that people think that when you join the military you give up rights or that you're presumed guilty until you prove yourself innocent, but nothing could be further from the truth," said Himert.

The advent of social media has shown how a small, localized event can explode into a national topic within hours of being posted online.

"It is important that military members have an understanding of how our justice system works, especially in this day and age where you find military justice headlines on CNN and being talked about in Congress," said Himert.

Some of the topics being taught are Constitutional Rights, Searches and Inspections, Free Speech and Article 31, "What is a Legal Military Order," "What is Sexual Assault" and "Am I Absent without Leave." The courses are held every Friday at noon in building 350, room 1064. Classes began on March 7, no registration is required and walk-ins are welcomed. For information call 556-7611.

Attendees should note that the classes are being offered in a purely academic format and by attending you are not forming an attorney-client relationship with any instructor. Those with questions or seeking advice regarding a specific situation or seeking legal assistance should call 556-7611/4871 to schedule an appointment with the Area Defense Council.

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