Few judge advocates and legalmen get to work in the aviation community, and even fewer have an opportunity to serve as the indispensable legal team for the “Carrier in the Desert.”
The staff at Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) Southwest Branch Office, aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon – led by Lt. Rik Andrews – operates in a unique desert environment. With 300 days of sunshine per year, NAS Fallon is the perfect place to train pilots, and the base is home to the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, which is responsible for all pre-deployment training for all air wings, including Carrier Air Wing 5 based out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan.
As the sole legal support staff for NAS Fallon, Andrews – along with Legalman 1st Class Korrie McKinney and Mr. Sam Mundell – advise local personnel on many complex and fascinating issues, from land acquisition to environmental compliance, to aircrew misconduct.
“Our daily job is to advise all commands on board on their legal issues and also provide service members with their legal assistance needs,” said Andrews.
In addition to supporting commands, Andrews advises the installation commander on all base-related issues, including a range modernization project now underway.
“Our current goal with range modernization is the updating of bombing ranges to provide our warfighters with more advanced training capabilities,” he said. “I serve as the legal point of contact for all of the base staff while working with environmental agencies and civilian attorneys.”
Andrews and McKinney acknowledge that Fallon’s remote location poses difficulties, but both whole- heartedly agree that it is one of the most rewarding locations to serve in the Navy.
“Being in such a small command, your opinion is valued across the base,” says Andrews. “You are a judge advocate, but you are also a part of the aviation community. Sometimes in meetings, you may simply be asked your opinion about an issue that is completely outside of the legal field.” “NAS Fallon is high-risk and high-reward,” he adds. “At a RLSO, you may be one of many, but at Fallon, you are the JAG.”
Though they are isolated, Andrews says he receives incredible support from RLSO Southwest, and, when thorny legal issues arise, his tight-knit local team is an invaluable resource. To stay connected, they begin each day with informal quarters before attacking the myriad of unexpected challenges that can arise. Service in Fallon doesn’t come without fun. McKinney notes that getting involved is a critical part of enjoying life on base. Being at Fallon “is like a giant family waiting to welcome you with open arms,” she says.
Both Andrews and McKinney marvel at the range of off-duty activities available to local personnel.
“There’s everything to do here,” says McKinney. As a “rockhound,” McKinney travels throughout Nevada, hunting for gold, gems, and silver. Andrews takes advantage of the long summers with horseback riding, hiking, and spending time at Lake Tahoe, while exploring local skiing opportunities during the winters. Both beam with pride when they speak about their experiences in Fallon.
“This has been my favorite command out of my entire Navy career,” says McKinney. “There’s an airshow every day.”