Scott Martin’s almost three decades as an attorney for the Air Force has taken him across the world and into the middle of some complicated legal issues.
He helped draft guidelines for the military commissions that may someday try prisoners at the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison. He also helped implement the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
In recognition of his accomplishments over the course of his career, Martin, a Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) High School grad, recently received the Stuart Reichart Award for the most “outstanding achievement in the field of law within the Air Force.”
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Martin, 53, said recently during a visit to Fort Walton Beach. “Recognition of what you’ve done over the span of your career is really special to me.”
From a young age, Martine knew he wanted to be an attorney. His dad was a fighter pilot in the Air Force, but it wasn’t until Martin turned 23 and lost access to Eglin Air Force Base that he realized he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps and join the military.
“That was when I realized how much it meant to me to be a part of that community,” he said.
Military life has taken Martin and his wife, Linda, across the country and even the world.
For several years, they were stationed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on the Azores Islands.
Camp Lejes, on the largest of the islands, the length of which is 18 miles, was basically a “bed and breakfast” for military airplanes to stop and refuel on their way to the Middle East, Martin said.
It was a great experience for Martin and his wife, who by then had two young kids.
Later, they were stationed in Germany, where they took the opportunity to travel all around Europe.
It was at the Pentagon, though, where Martin has spent most of his time and where some of his proudest achievements occurred.
In 2006, increasing numbers of prisoners were being housed at Guantanamo Bay, and officials needed to figure out how they would be tried.
“We had a lot of bad guys down there, but we hadn’t done military commissions (for trying prisoners) since World War II,” Martin said. “We didn’t have the framework in place to do that.”
So, in came Martin. He and a team of attorneys from the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense and each branch of the military developed a system, though it still has yet to be used.
Convincing people in Congress and other officials the military commissions were the best way to handle prosecutions was difficult. Some argued the prisoners should be tried in U.S. court.
Martin said the government is still in the process of determining who should be prosecuted under the commissions.
“I hope they do use them some day,” he said.
Martin has also worked on the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Eliminating the policy allows servicemembers to publicly come out as gay.
“It was one of these issues people were really nervous about, but a whole lot hadn’t changed,” Martin said. “The biggest challenge has been making sure everybody understands this didn’t change the way we do our jobs.”
Martin, a retired colonel who continues to work for the Air Force as a civilian at the Pentagon, loves his work.
“You feel like you’re contributing to big issues and working on things that have meaning,” he said. “There’s never a dull moment.”
©2014 Northwest Florida (Fort Walton Beach) Daily News. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.