Public Affairs Officer
This week Air Force Capt. Michael Phillipp will trade legal pads and his computer for body armor and a Kevlar helmet — and he leaves his office for the firing range and a place behind the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
Phillipp, who grew up water skiing on Syracuse Lake, is an Air Force lawyer assigned to the headquarters legal staff of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. He will train with the M249 SAW as part of Force Protection Bravo, the quick reaction team he serves with at his compound in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Phillipp thinks training on such a weapon “is something cool that most lawyers don’t get to do.”
Since joining the Air Force and becoming a military lawyer in 2009, Phillipp, 28, has done a lot of things “most lawyers,” who have not served in the military, “don’t get to do.” He has worked on courts-martial, discharge boards, Article 15 proceedings, absent without leave cases, national security violations, government claims, rules-of-engagement briefs and a number of command-directed investigations.
The military community has lawbreakers just like the rest of society, so Phillipp has also prosecuted criminal cases involving drug dealers, drunk drivers, domestic abusers, burglars, white collar criminals and possessors of child pornography.
A desire to make a difference in the world is what led him to a career in law. He decided to be an attorney during his senior year at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. While later attending Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis, he clerked at a local law firm.
Phillipp’s military career has led him to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, and, now, Afghanistan. “I was really glad when I was assigned a deployment to Afghanistan because I had been volunteering for a long time,” he said.
Phillipp said he wanted duty in Afghanistan because of the opportunity it provides for a variety of challenging cases in a joint operational environment.
Phillipp said the most meaningful work he has done so far in Afghanistan has been several important investigations, which involved ground mishaps, unprofessional conduct committed by military members and civilians, loss of high value equipment and mishandling of classified information.
Whether firing a machine gun or trying to understand complex Army regulations, Phillipp said he has welcomed every challenge the deployment has given him. And he believes facing and meeting these challenges have made him a better lawyer and a better officer.
For a more in-depth article, see this week’s issue of The Mail-Journal.