Arizona JAG wins award

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
An Arizona Airman was recently named as the Air Mobility Command's Outstanding Air Reserve Component Judge Advocate of the Year.

Maj. Neal Rodak, 161st Air Refueling Wing assistant judge advocate, was recognized as the command's most outstanding reserve judge advocate for 2011. Named for Reginald C. Harmon, the award recipient is selected based on training accomplishments or contribution to mission support, exhibition of leadership in the military or civilian community, and enrollment in off-duty programs of professional self-improvement.

"My winning of this award is much more a reflection of those who I worked with and for and those who worked for me than on myself," Major Rodak said. "I feel very honored to have received this award, but I could not have done it without all of my great supervisors, co-workers, and great reserve, active duty, and civilian paralegals."

The major also attributes much of his success to his wife.

"A special thanks to my wife, Emily, the love of my life and my number one supporter. Without her support and tremendous sacrifices, none of what I have been able to accomplish would be possible," he said.

During a five-month tour at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., Major Rodak served as the acting deputy staff judge advocate for the 50th Space Wing. He aggressively managed the wing's legal assistance workload and saved clients $59,000 in legal fees.

In addition, Major Rodak successfully settled 13 labor law cases and in one case, saved the Air Force $300,000 when the Office of Federal Operations dismissed a complaint based on his airtight appeal brief.

Involved in the community as an advocate for homeless Veterans, Major Rodak's efforts were instrumental in helping more than 1,000 homeless veterans settle their criminal cases saving them $700,000 in legal fines and fees. He was also involved in establishing a Veterans' Court in Maricopa County. He continues to work and advocate for the expansion of this court.

An attorney in the Maricopa County Public Defender's Office in his civilian job, Major Rodak is considered to be the "go-to" guy for other attorneys on military law and personnel issues, Veterans benefits issues, and their convergence with Arizona criminal law. His efforts have resulted in better plea offers and/or sentences for Veterans. In many cases, they have aligned Veterans with benefits and programs that help get them back on their feet and decrease recidivism rates.

Always seeking ways to improve himself, Major Rodak completed his Masters in Business Administration in 2009 and has recently graduated from the Forensic Academy at the Phoenix Crime lab.

"We are very fortunate to have a rising star like Neal in the 161st," said Maj. John Conley, 161st ARW judge advocate. "This award recognizes at the national level what we in the 161st witness first hand every day. Neal is the consummate Airman-Lawyer and an outstanding military officer. In the past year alone, he has mobilized to Colorado, medaled at the Armed Forces wrestling championship, been selected for resident Air Command and Staff College and won the Harmon Award. We are extremely proud of him."