January 11, 2012 - Practicing law is not an easy profession anywhere in the world, but imagine doing it in a remote, war-torn country like Afghanistan.
Holding a University of Michigan t-shirt, USAF Capt. Andrea Hunwick, a 2000 OHS grad and 2004 U-M grad, stands next to street signs marking the intersection of Wolverine and Spartan avenues on a military base in Bagram, Afghanistan. In front of her are fellow Michigan residents Audrey Knapp, of Grand Rapids; Lt. Blaine Pearson, of Muskegon; Lt. Ryan Charles, of Petosky; and Capt. Matt Bryan, of Plymouth. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
That's exactly what U.S. Air Force Capt. Andrea Hunwick's been doing since the end of October.
"I never would have dreamed there's a need for attorneys over there, but apparently there is," said her father Ed Hunwick, of Oxford Township.
Andrea, a 2000 Oxford High School graduate, is stationed at a base in Bagram, Afghanistan, where she does legal work for the Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps, commonly known as JAG.. She'll be there until May.
"We're proud of her. She's doing her duty," Ed said.
After graduating from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2004 and earning her legal degree from Loyola University in Chicago, Andrea joined the military in 2009.
"She thought it would be an interesting career path," Ed said.
However, she never dreamed military life would lead to her practicing law in Afghanistan. "She was pretty anxious about it before she got there, but now that she's settled in, it's not quite that bad," Ed said.
As a member of JAG, Andrea is restricted to the base, which is more like its own city. Ed said the spacious base has everything from retail stores to fast food restaurants like Burger King, McDonald's and KFC.
Despite having many of the comforts of home, there's no doubt that outside the base, there's still a war being fought.
On Christmas morning, Andrea was communicating with her family in Oxford via Skype when the war interrupted.
"She was talking to us, then she stopped talking and she flinched," Ed said. "She looked real surprised. Everybody in the background just stopped in their tracks.
"She said that was the loudest bomb they'd ever heard. It sounded like it was real close. She said they hear bombs on a regular basis . . . I guess hearing gunfire off in the distance and bombs going off is just part of the way of life there."
Although he's extremely proud of her service, Ed admitted he's still a "little anxious" about her being over there.
"I'm little bit relieved to some degree that she's in one of the more secure facilities," he said. "But you never know what can happen."
Ed admitted he's definitely "become more aware of what goes on over there now." Before she was stationed there, Ed said he was like many people, he listened to the news, but "it kind of went in one ear and out the other."
"It never really hit home," he said. "Now, that she's over there, it's a whole different perspective. You think about those other families and the situation itself, why we're there, why we have to be there, what the future's going to hold."
Ed did find it quite ironic that his daughter got the chance to do something in the military that he would love to do – fire a bazooka. You see Ed's a self-described "ultraconservative," whereas Andrea is, as he put it, "probably the ultimate liberal." She had never held, much less fired a gun prior to the military weapons training she received in New Jersey.
"I told her how disappointed I was that she, who was anti-gun, was able to shoot bazookas, but didn't want to (whereas) I want to shoot a bazooka and I can't," he said.
So, what does the future hold for Andrea? More time in the military or a return to civilian life? "She's unsure," Ed said. "She wants to wait until her four-year enlistment is done. At this point in time, she's seriously considering re-upping for another two years. She finds it very interesting . . . I think she would like to work for the (U.S.) Justice Department sometime down the road."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.