Paralegals deployed to the Middle East in support of the United States Army Central (USARCENT) area of operations had the opportunity to compete in the United States Army Central 3rd Quarter Paralegal of the Quarter on June 13, 2020. Representing the 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade’s (ECAB) Red Devil Justice team, Spc. Cameron Kerkes won in the lower enlisted category. As a Paralegal Specialist for Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, Kerkes competed against other junior enlisted personnel and noncommissioned officers with varying degrees of experience levels. His achievement is especially notable considering he recently graduated the paralegal advanced individual training in March of 2019.
“This achievement is special because Spc. Kerkes has been [working as] a paralegal for less than a year and competed against paralegals across the combined joint operations area (CJOA), most of whom were considerably more experienced,” said Capt. Justin Baker, officer in charge for the 34th ECAB legal section. “For Spc. Kerkes to have the personal courage to apply for this award in the first place is impressive, then to put in the effort to study hard and prepare himself and win shows just how much of a motivated and dedicated Soldier he is.”
The competition challenged applicants through a series of events including a written test, a typing test, a practical exercise, and a formal board all of which focused on the contestant’s ability to demonstrate their proficiency in paralegal work. Sgt. Joshua Snyder, Kerkes’ sponsor for the competition, said he was not surprised by Kerkes’ prowess.
“Spc. Kerkes is one of the most motivated Soldiers I've worked with,” said Snyder. “As a paralegal [with 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion] he has excelled in every task he has taken on and it was no surprise that he won Paralegal of the Quarter. I was happy to sponsor Spc. Kerkes and help facilitate him competing in a remote location and offer him advice from my experience competing in similar competitions.”
Hearing he had won the competition, Kerkes said he was happy to have earned the distinction.
“The biggest thing is I’m just glad I made my section proud,” said Kerkes. “I know my NCOIC [noncommissioned officer in charge] believed in me and I’m just happy to make her proud.”
Staff Sgt. Melissa Allen, helped Kerkes prepare his application by writing his letter of recommendation.
“I believed he was more than capable,” said Allen. “Furthermore, I have not ever worked with a new Soldier who was so knowledgeable, determined and eager to learn more. It was a great challenge for him to compete against other paralegals and I couldn’t be more proud and excited that he won this award.”
When he first joined the Minnesota National Guard, Kerkes had considered pursuing law for his civilian career, so he jumped at the opportunity to train as a paralegal with the United States Army. Since then, he has decided to earn a finance degree from Liberty University; however, he still enjoys the work he does as a paralegal specialist and finds value in his military occupation specialty.
“When you’re a paralegal, you have a direct hand in justice,” said Kerkes. “When you have the ability to affect actions regarding discipline in the Army it really give you a sense of purpose. And that’s what I really love about being a paralegal, is that you know every day that you go into work that you are helping keep the Army safe.”