Twelfth Air Force attorney takes ACC honors
By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky , Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
/ Published April 09, 2009
DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- A Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) attorney won Air Combat Command's 2008 Outstanding Civilian Attorney of the Year award.
Omar Ojeda, 12th AF (AFSOUTH) chief of international law, will now compete at the Air Force level.
Mr. Ojeda, a retired lieutenant colonel, has worked at 12th AF (AFSOUTH) since 2003 after a 28 year career with the Air Force Reserve.
His primary duty is to provide precise, fast, pragmatic legal advice to the 12th AF (AFSOUTH) commander. There are many international legal issues affecting operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Mr. Ojeda is also considered a fiscal "watchdog" for operational spending in the area of focus.
"I'm happy about winning," he said, "and very surprised, but humbled. It's hard to be recognized at this level without the support of the entire office. We have a great team here. Without them, it's not as easy for me to do the job."
Mr. Ojeda is most proud of defusing a potentially damaging situation in Venezuela involving a claim for damages by two Venezuelan citizens after a traffic accident with an Airman. The two Venezuelans had been severely injured, he said, and the incident was being exploited to promote anti-American sentiment by government officials. Mr. Ojeda flew to Venezuela and met with the injured Venezuelans and their attorneys. They came to a fair and equitable settlement for damages within a week, effectively closing the case that could have been used as a political tool to damage the United States public image.
One of Mr. Ojeda's other accomplishments that ultimately led to the annual award was ensuring a medical engagement mission in a South American country proceeded on schedule. Air Force physicians were having difficulty getting local authorities to recognize the credentials that allow them to practice medicine. Without credentials, the entire mission would have been cancelled. Mr. Ojeda found a simple solution acceptable to the country's authorities that averted the cancellation and kept future medical engagements from facing similar difficulty.
"It encompasses all the things about this job that I enjoy, especially defusing crises and coming to a settlement that's in the best interest of the U.S.," he said. "Commanders don't want an attorney who simply says 'yes,' they want fast, pragmatic solutions. You best serve the commander if you can provide that, and do so in plain English."