Lawyer on a Mission in Afghanistan
Scott Delius puts practice on hold to help set up the Afghan military justice system
Fulton County Daily Report
Scott Delius has a mission.
Delius put his law practice on hold last October to go to Afghanistan with the Army National Guard, which is part of the NATO coalition training the Afghan National Army.
After a month’s training in Mississippi, Delius arrived in Kabul in late November, where he is the Judge Advocate General officer attached to the Kabul Military Training Center. It is the country’s largest base, he said in a telephone interview, with about 8,000 new recruits being trained at any one time. He is working with the base’s top Afghan legal officer to establish a military justice system there. He also advises the Afghans and the U.S. base commander on any legal issues that come up and helps U.S. soldiers with any legal problems that arise for them back home.
Delius recently added a personal mission to his official duties.
He was prompted by a visit he’d made that morning to a refugee village that his unit was assessing for a humanitarian mission. “It just floored me,” he said. “There were children with no shoes, trash everywhere, livestock eating it, and people burning the trash to keep warm.”
Delius keeps a blog, where he has been recording his experiences in Kabul. On his blog that day, he wrote, “Since I left the village this morning I’ve been walking around in a fog. I am overwhelmed by what I saw,” and he posted pictures he’d taken of the desolate conditions in the encampment.
He said he’d seen the ravaged condition of the country when on convoy traveling from base to base. But, he said, with “boots on the ground, having the opportunity to walk through the village—I really saw it then.”
Delius, who is 37, became a guardsman two years ago. He said the 9/11 attacks prompted him to join the military. He made several attempts to enlist in the Army Reserves, but they turned him away each time because of a knee surgery he’d had years before. He finally contacted the Army National Guard, which he said understood that the surgery doesn’t affect his physical performance and signed him up.
Although Delius is a JAG officer in Decatur’s 78th Troop Command, he is serving in Afghanistan as part of an Oregon National Guard unit, the 41st Brigade. At officers’ basic training, an Oregon national guardsman told Delius his unit was going to be sent to Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission training the Afghan army. Almost two years later, the Oregonian e-mailed him about an opening on the mission, and Delius volunteered to go.
In civilian life, Delius has a solo law practice. While he is in Kabul, two colleagues have taken on a lot of his cases, which he said has been a huge help. But he acknowledged that he does not know how much of a law practice he’ll have when he returns in May or June. “I’m going to have to work hard to rebuild,” he said.
Right now, he is working to build the Afghan National Army. “We’re training them to be good soldiers who can help this nation stand on its own,” he said.
After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the country fell into civil war and then Taliban rule until the U.S. invasion in 2001 toppled the Taliban government. Since December 2001, a NATO force, which includes the United States, has been supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai.
New soldiers, all volunteers, come through the Kabul Military Training Center, where a NATO coalition is assisting with their basic training.
Establishing a well-functioning military justice system is a crucial part of getting the Afghan army, known as the ANA, to stand on its own, Delius said.
A well-functioning army “involves instilling a system of fairness and justice throughout the ANA ranks,” he wrote on his blog. “The thought is that if we start the soldiers off right at the beginning here at [the training center], they will become conscientious soldiers and future citizens. You can’t instill this type of outlook without having a military justice system. Imagine trying to motivate a soldier to fight for his country if rules within his own army aren’t enforced and if infractions go unpunished.”
Delius is mentoring the Afghans as they set up a military court at the base. “They had no military justice system at all,” he said.
Last month, an Afghan soldier was tried for a male-on-male rape on the base. Delius said the Afghans handled the legal work themselves—from arrest and investigation to trial and sentencing—which he called a success story for the new system. “We got a very strong conviction of eight years,” he added.
“We are trying to get the Afghan government and military to go after people who are breaking the laws,” he said, explaining that Afghans are often afraid, after years of civil war, lawlessness, and Taliban rule, of repercussions to themselves and their families if they report crimes.
Delius and an Afghan Army colonel are creating training programs for the soldiers. A lot of them are illiterate, he said, “so we have to come up with creative ways to teach them law of war issues.” Delius’s team has produced what is informally referred to as the “comic book,” with pictures showing what is right and wrong on the battlefield—for instance, that they should not kill the people they capture and should treat them humanely. Other photos, posted on his blog, instruct soldiers not to sleep on guard duty or go AWOL and illustrate that it’s a crime to sell weapons or other items issued by the military. (A literacy program has been established at the base.)
They are also teaching the officers more appropriate ways to discipline their own soldiers for infractions, such as giving them extra duty instead of physical punishment. “We’re helping them change their mindset,” Delius explained.
He emphasized that the Afghan soldiers are smart people who grasp things quickly. “You have to remember that the older officers were brought up through the Soviet system, which was much harsher. They had a different way of doing things. They didn’t always play by the rules.”
American news outlets have reported that the violence in Afghanistan has reached the worst levels since the U.S. attack against the Taliban in 2001. Delius said that he and other soldiers cannot leave the base unless fully armed and in convoy with other soldiers.
To deliver the clothes and supplies to the village, he must organize “a full convoy complete with MP security, because it will be dangerous to go out there.”
He added that he hoped media coverage of the worsening violence would encourage other countries to send troops to help the NATO coalition in Afghanistan, where the United States has about 18,000 troops stationed.
Despite the surge in violence from the Taliban, Delius is optimistic about the Afghan army, which he said is getting a “strong stream” of volunteers. “The army is standing up on its own,” he said. “People here are tired of war. They are tired of fighting. There is a generation here that has known nothing but war. They are tired of it and want it to stop.”
Atlanta JAG Carries Out Aid Mission for Afghan Refugee Village
Fulton County Daily Report
On Friday, U.S. soldiers distributed two seven-ton trucks’ worth of clothes, shoes, and supplies to a refugee village near Kabul Military Training Center in Afghanistan. Atlanta solo attorney Scott Delius, serving in Afghanistan as an Army National Guard JAG since November 2006, organized the relief effort.
Scott D. Delius is ordinarily a solo attorney in Atlanta but has been serving in Afghanistan as an Army National Guard member since November 2006. He is stationed at the country’s largest military training base as a judge advocate general helping to train the Afghan National Army.
The contributions were enough to fill two seven-ton trucks.
On Friday, more than 50 soldiers at Delius’ base volunteered to help him transport the donations to a nearby village and distribute them to the Afghans. Since Friday is a Muslim holiday, it is the soldiers’ day off at the base.
Delius wrote on the blog that he’s keeping his tour, Afghanistan JAG, that it took him about two weeks to plan the trip. He checked out the village three times, then planned the route and organized the personnel before Friday’s expedition of the base.
Crowd control was the soldiers’ biggest task; the villagers jockeyed for better spots in line for the clothing and shoes. Delius writes that there were no women or girls in the line because the men and boys kept pushing them aside, so the soldiers moved the girls to the front of the line, where they received all the clothes they could carry.
“We were able to put shoes, pants, shirts, and jackets on over 500 people and size them correctly. That is a massive undertaking,” he said on his blog, where he also has posted pictures of the humanitarian mission. Delius, who was promoted to captain in April, is due to return to Atlanta later this month. He and his colleagues and family are working with a humanitarian organization to keep the aid effort going after his return and send shoes and clothes to Afghans in other villages.
Good People: Help for Afghanistan
WXIA News Channel 11, Atlanta
When 9/11 happened, a young Atlanta attorney decided to do something. So, he volunteered for the National Guard and eventually was sent to Afghanistan.
But the attorney-soldier who went to fight for our country came back an honored humanitarian.
What Captain Scott Delius did over there makes him Good People.
He’s got a collection of military medals—some, every soldier gets when they go to war. But not every soldier gets this—
“This is the meritorious service medal which goes with the certificate,” said Scott Delius.
Delius just got back from six months in Afghanistan, a soldier with the Georgia National Guard and an attorney. He was sent to Afghanistan to help set up a military court system. He never expected to be moved by what he saw.
“Seeing children with no clothes,” he said. “And it was way below freezing. I’m bundled up. I’m comfortable, but I’m seeing children with no shoes that live in mud huts.”
The villages of Afghanistan changed everything for Scott.
“That just struck me really hard,” he said. “I just didn’t feel like I could walk away from that.”
“Scott sent this e-mail saying what are we gonna do about this,” said his wife, Allison. “Oh my gosh, this is making me so upset and so sad—there was a couple of people that responded and said I want to help. Tell me what to do.”
It snowballed. The pictures Scott sent were wrenching. His wife forwarded them, and friends of friends and their friends got involved.
“I was surprised, overwhelmed really,” Scott said.
It was a hero moment. Scott and his fellow soldiers handed out clothes from village to village to grateful families—so many clothes sometimes the bags were bigger than the kids.
“They really appreciate it,” Scott said. “They don’t have anything, I mean, at all. They don’t have any shoes, they don’t have any warm coats. They’re very appreciative.”
Scott likes helping people. He’s an attorney. But what happened in Afghanistan deepened his desire to change lives. He went on to set up that military judicial system, and then he came home a different man.
“When you go day to day wondering if you’re gonna make it through that day, that changes your perspective,” Scott said. “You have a sense of maybe what’s important and what’s not now that I didn’t have before.”
Scott said now, the small things don’t bother him anymore—not even Atlanta traffic.
By the way, they distributed those clothes all while keeping watch for suicide bombers. Some donations are still coming in.
Operation Backpack at Camp Alamo Afghanistan
Defense Transportation Journal
The press describes the area around Camp Alamo, which is located inside the walls of the Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC), as “home to bloodthirsty drug gangs, al-Qaeda suicide bombers, floods, and flesh-eating scorpions,” yet this does not deter our troops from venturing beyond the confines to distribute school supplies to needy children. Sometimes, the people coordinating the effort do not have specialized training in distribution or logistics, but they do have heart. And that’s what it takes when the destination involves “one of the most dangerous places on earth.”
What follows are two separate accounts from Captain Scott Delius, U.S. Army National Guard, and Chief Petty Officer Mike Ploeger, U.S. Navy Reserve. They both were moved by the children; they both found solutions to deliver help in resourceful ways. Their mission is informally known as “Operation Backpack” and is sustained today through a resilient network of friends and comrades.
Frustrated, and in response to the extreme poverty he encountered in surrounding villages outside Camp Alamo, Captain Scott Delius set about collecting clothes, shoes, notebooks, and backpacks in his spare time for the youngsters.
Captain Delius arrived in Kabul in late November 2006 after a month’s training in Mississippi and was assigned as the Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer attached to the Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC). It is the country’s largest base, with about 8,000 new recruits in training at any one time. He worked with the base’s top Afghan legal officer to establish a military justice system, and he helped U.S. soldiers with legal problems that came up back home. His role didn’t require expertise in transportation or logistics, but when facing mountains of donated supplies—enough to fill two seven-ton trucks after all was said and done—he was forced to assume a new mindset and develop additional problem-solving skills.
Other opportunities for hands-on learning surfaced from time to time, like the time a devastating flood swamped in Kabul. Shovels, tarps, saws, and hammers were delivered along with food and clothing. “More than 6,000 people [in Kabul] lost their homes. A police chief contacted our intelligence officer and asked for assistance,” Captain Delius remembers. The supplies were critical in rebuilding homes and lives.
In May of this year, he returned home to rekindle his law practice, but the legacy of goodwill lives on at Camp Alamo—and in surprising ways.
One day, out of the clear blue, NDTA member Mike Meyer received a call. It was from his longtime friend Mike Ploeger, now a Chief Petty Officer with the Naval Reserves and stationed at Camp Alamo as Public Affairs Officer. Way back when, they were raised in the same neighborhood and grew up to own and operate their own trucks for the same companies, spending many long stretches on the road together. That was 30 years ago, and now, Chief Ploeger was calling for help. Coordination was needed to collect a barrage of donations earmarked for Afghanistan; goods were coming from around South Carolina in response to communications from the 218th National Guard out of Columbia and the 178th Combat Engineers out of Rock Hill and Fort Mill armories, both units deployed to Camp Alamo. Chief Ploeger had to get the word out. After all, winter was approaching, and the kids needed coats and shoes!
Meyer stepped up to coordinate the necessary stateside logistics. “I contacted trucking companies and others in the industry to assist with transport. Ana Bundy, with Blackwater, a private security firm, agreed to offload and warehouse items, as well as provide airlift to Afghanistan.” He continues, “Some aspects [of this effort] are easier than others, and having a private company onboard to handle shipment over to Afghanistan can speed up the process. It hasn’t been hard to get others involved—there are many people with connections to someone over there [at Camp Alamo], and they want to contribute.”
Volunteers in South Carolina sorted and boxed the goods, which even included old military uniforms for the Afghan trainees at KMTC; the American soldiers’ names were taken off garments that were no longer a standard issue. The domestic trucking was arranged through Andy Clarke and provided by his firm, Panther Expedited Services. Chris Koehring of Panther coordinated the multiple pickups and the delivery without delay. The Herald News in Rock Hill, South Carolina reported that the truck drivers from Panther were so impressed with the humanitarian effort that they donated mileage from part of the trip, which translates as money that they would normally earn.
Friendships, whether casual or work-related, help build the bridges that move things along…in this case, to Camp Alamo, and thanks to two old friends. By October, enough shoes, coats, hats, gloves, and clothing were collected to warm the kids (who play barefoot in the snow), their mothers (whose husbands and fathers were killed in war), and the aged village farmers (who till the fields by hand).
Chief Ploeger joined Camp Alamo just as Captain Delius was preparing to leave in May. They became quick friends. They didn’t spend much time together in transition, and they were not related by either their uniform or by their profession. But they shared a strong commitment, a resourceful spirit, and an “army” of friends back home that keeps “Operation Backpack” alive. So far, six Humanitarian Aid (HA) missions have taken place, with almost 2,000 man-hours of off-duty time contributed by the coalition soldiers. The missions include three schools in an area that sustained several IED strikes, two village clothing distributions, and a distribution of food and clothing to the families of Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers that were killed this past July in a mortar training accident.
Deal’s JNC Draws From Diverse Group
Co-chairman Randy Evans: Commission reflects the mix of geographic regions, firm sizes, and practices
Fulton County Daily Report
The 20 lawyers Gov. Nathan Deal named in his first week in office to serve on the Judicial Nominating Commission draw on diverse practices and regions of the state.
“We didn’t start with that objective, but when we finished, it ended up being quite diverse,” said McKenna Long & Aldridge partner J. Randolph “Randy” Evans, former Republican Party of Georgia general counsel and Deal’s personal attorney, one of two co-chairmen of the new JNC.
The other co-chairman is Miller P. “Pete” Robinson, Deal’s transition team co-chairman and head of the Troutman Sanders lobbying group. They replace one-time attorney general Michael J. Bowers, a partner with Balch & Bingham.
Evans and Robinson said the naming of two chairmen was for practical purposes: both have busy law practices.
Evans heads McKenna’s financial institutions practice, handling high-profile, complex litigation in state and federal courts. He also serves as outside counsel to a list of Republicans that includes Deal, Sarah Palin, former U.S. House speakers Dennis Hastert and Newt Gingrich, and former congressman J.C. Watts.
Robinson, a Columbus resident, is chairman of Troutman Sanders Strategies, a federal, state, and local lobbying firm. He is a former member of the state Senate, where he was a Democratic majority leader. He notes he was the only Georgia Senate president pro tempore ever to be nominated for that role by both the Republican and Democratic leaders. Like Deal, whom he came to know in the state Senate, Robinson later became a Republican but has retained ties to both parties. “I try to be non-partisan,” Robinson said. “Politics is not my issue.”
Despite the Republican credentials of a number of the new panel members, Evans was adamant that politics would not be a part of the judicial selection process. “The commission will base its decisions on the merits of the candidates,” Robinson added. “Randy and I are both looking forward to working together to name a list of good, qualified, fair candidates for the governor to consider.”
The co-chairmen said the list of lawyers who will help the governor choose judges is a product of conversations Deal had with them and his executive council, D. Todd Markle, formerly a litigator with Mabry & McClelland, as well as W. Ryan Teague, deputy executive counsel under Gov. Sonny Perdue who remains in the same position with Deal, and other members of the new governor’s team.
“If you made a list of big firms, small firms, solos, judges, plaintiffs, the defense bar, prosecutors, criminal defense, it’s all there,” Evans said. “It’s a reflection of the role the governor expects the group to take. It’s reflective of all geographic areas, all practices, all size law firms, all kinds of people. It’s reflective of the bar and reflective of the things that Georgians look for in a judge.”
The JNC dates back to 1972 when then-Gov. Jimmy Carter created it by executive order. The group traditionally has interviewed candidates for judicial positions and provided the governor with shortlists from which to choose. Members serve at the pleasure of the governor, who is not bound to follow its recommendations. The JNC in the past has made public the detailed questionnaires completed by judicial candidates but has conducted interviews in private.
Evans and Robinson declined to answer questions about how the judicial nominating process may change, saying the new members of the JNC will soon have an organizational meeting to make decisions and plan procedures. But they did express what Evans described as “a strong preference for transparency.”
Evans said he believes the judicial nominating process will be different from the previous administration, but it’s too soon to say how. “We have an advantage because Gov. Deal is a lawyer. That’ll make our job easier,” said Evans. “It’ll change how he views our recommendations and probably what he does with our recommendations.”
Deal’s new JNC includes three lawyers who served previously under Perdue: James B. Franklin, Robert S. Highsmith Jr., and Frank B. Strickland.
Franklin, a litigator with Franklin, Taulbee, Rushing, Snipes & Marsh in Statesboro, served as an honorary co-chairman of the lawyers’ committee for Sam Olens’ campaign for attorney general and as a co-chairman of the Olens transition team. Franklin is a past president of the State Bar of Georgia (2001-2002).
Highsmith, a government relations partner with Holland & Knight in Atlanta, was also a member of the Olens transition team. He is a former assistant general counsel to the Georgia Republican Party, chief of staff to the Republican Caucus of the Georgia House of Representatives, and deputy executive counsel under Perdue.
Strickland, an education, government affairs, and campaign finance lawyer at Strickland Brockington Lewis, was appointed to the JNC by Perdue in 2003.
Republican Sam Olens, the new attorney general, will replace his predecessor, Thurbert E. Baker, on the JNC.
The other new members are:
- Mary P. Adams is a medical malpractice defense lawyer with Green & Sapp in Atlanta and one of only two women on the commission.
- James A. Bishop of the Bishop Law Firm in Brunswick is a member of the Georgia Board of Regents. Bishop’s first job out of Mercer University Law School was practicing with Anthony A. Alaimo, who went on to become a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of Georgia.
- Thomas P. Bishop is general counsel for Georgia Power Co. and a former chairman of the board of directors for the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, which matches corporate lawyers with nonprofit organizations needing legal help. Bishop lives in Cartersville.
- Waycross Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Michael P. Boggs was nominated in the search for a replacement for Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears when she retired in 2009, but he was not on the shortlist.
- Christopher M. Carr is chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and a former vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.
- Dennis T. Cathey is a trial lawyer with Cathey & Strain in Cornelia, near Deal’s hometown of Gainesville, and a former Georgia Trial Lawyers Association president.
- Dwight J. Davis is a senior litigation partner at King & Spalding and a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.
- Scott D. Delius is a solo lawyer and mediator with Miles Mediation & Arbitration Services and has made JNC shortlists twice himself for Fulton County judicial positions. He served in Afghanistan as a Georgia Army National Guard JAG officer.
- Arthur B. “Skin” Edge IV is a Republican political supporter who served 10 years in the Georgia Senate dating back to 1987, is a partner with the law firm of Wood, Odom & Edge in Newnan and is associated with the lobbying group GeorgiaLink, which has connections to the Perdue administration.
- Robert D. James Jr. is a Democrat who was elected as DeKalb County’s district attorney last fall and previously served as DeKalb’s solicitor general. He is the panel’s lone African-American member.
- J. David McDade is the Douglas County district attorney who prosecuted then-17-year-old Genarlow Wilson—whose case was later overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court—for having oral sex with another teenager at a high school party.
- Patrick T. O’Connor is a mediator, arbitrator, trial lawyer, and managing partner with Oliver Maner in Savannah and a member of the State Bar of Georgia Board of Governors.
- Daniel A. Summer is a self-described “right-wing Democrat” and Deal supporter who practices law with his wife, Chandelle T. Summer, at Summer & Summer in Gainesville, and the only member from Deal’s native Hall County.
- Rebecca A. Wright is the Augusta Judicial Circuit district attorney. She was an assistant district attorney in 2008 when Perdue appointed her to fill the office opened when Perdue named her boss, former DA Daniel J. Craig, to the Augusta Superior Court.