No two days are the same for Lt. Timothy Garcia, who leads the bustling Region Legal Service Office Southwest branch office located at Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon, Nev.
In fact, Garcia’s role as branch head is just one of many responsibilities he juggles. Supporting the personnel who populate the “Supercarrier in the Desert” can be unpredictable and challenging, but it is never dull and always rewarding.
Despite its remote location in northern Nevada’s desert, NAS Fallon is extremely busy. It is the Navy’s premier tactical air warfare training center. It hosts eight tenant commands, and every air wing in the Navy rolls through NAS Fallon for training.
In addition to his role as branch head, Garcia serves as the installation’s staff judge advocate. He also provides legal support to the one-star admiral who oversees Fallon’s Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, which often involves fielding calls from visiting squadron commanding officers. Garcia is the only attorney aboard the installation, and he is consulted on a wide range of consequential issues.
“Few installations have such a large transient population in a small community, so this is a pretty exceptional experience,” said Garcia. “Because I wear so many hats, I get to interact with a lot of different people – judge advocates and OGC (Office of the General Counsel) attorneys throughout the world, both at installations and at operational commands, as well as the people who train aviators and keep this installation running every day.”
Garcia is part of a small legal team that’s well known among installation personnel and serves a steady stream of clients daily. Legalman 1st Class Korrie McKinney has been working for more than two years at NAS Fallon as the command services paralegal. Mr. Sam Mundell, who previously served for 20 years as a Navy legalman, has worked as a legal assistant there for nearly 15 years.
“I am blessed to have such a talented team – we really are like family,” said Garcia. “LN1 is a very capable paralegal, and Sam has so much institutional knowledge. I could not do my job without either of them.”
For several years, the expansion of the Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC) – which is used for live fire training for aviators and special warfare personnel – has presented the branch office with a number of novel legal questions. The project will result in the closure of nearby public lands and has drawn considerable community interest. Garcia and his team, alongside installation leadership, coordinate regularly with senior Navy leadership, state agencies, counties, tribes, industry leaders, and non-government organizations on issues ranging from land acquisition to environmental compliance.
“LN1 and Sam work with a lot of autonomy, and they free me up to be able to address more complex issues that come up.,” said Garcia. “I personally only spend about 15 percent of my time dealing with non-judicial punishment and legal assistance issues. The bulk of my work is assisting the tenant commands and installation staff with ethics issues, civilian personnel matters in coordination with OGC, and the FRTC modernization.”
Despite their diverse caseload – which often scatters them across the installation – the branch office members are closely synchronized. They begin weekdays with a short meeting to align efforts and discuss difficult issues (listen to their podcast to learn more about their team dynamic). They reconnect throughout each day via text and phone calls to address unexpected concerns that crop up at any given time.
Garcia, McKinney, and Mundell are a team outside the office, as well. It’s not uncommon for them to spend holidays and some of their free time together.
“Once, I got a call from LN1 asking if I could pick up her son from school-age care. I was glad to help out. Sam invites all of us over for holiday meals with his family,” said Garcia. “We look out for one another.”
There is no shortage of activities to occupy the team’s downtime. Like their caseload, which often includes unusual legal issues, northern Nevada contains many surprises. From kayaking, to horseback riding, to hiking, to a visit to nearby Lake Tahoe, there are plenty of adventures available to those stationed at NAS Fallon.
“This has been a one-of-a-kind opportunity,” said Garcia. “At work, I get to see an airshow almost every day, and I get to find answers to legal questions I had never previously considered. And, outside of work, I get to enjoy a truly special community in a beautiful part of the country.”