Wisconsin Law Journal
Lt. Col. Robyn Blader capped off a six-month deployment to Afghanistan, where she served as chief of military justice at Camp Phoenix, by being named the Wisconsin Law Journal's Woman of the Year.
Blader received the honor June 21 at the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee, one day after returning to Wisconsin and a mere nine days after departing Afghanistan. The Association for Women Lawyers said Blader was selected for her service and sacrifice to the military and the state's legal community.
"She is an example of excellence and has opened doors for other women to follow," said one judge. "She has served her community - both large and small - with her considerable legal skill, drive and energy."
Blader earned her law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1995, and founded Blader Law Office LLC in 1997.
While in Afghanistan, Blader represented the Army command in cases involving the 11,000 tenants from the eight camps of the Kabul Base Cluster. She also served as deputy staff advocate for Task Force Hydra, the command unit in Kabul, and supervised a legal office that provided services for all camps.
Lt. Col. Robyn Blader, a legal officer with the Wisconsin Army National Guard, with Afghan school children earlier this year. During her recent deployment to Afghanistan, Blader volunteered with Operation Outreach Afghanistan, which helps build and remodel schools. Blader was honored June 21 as the Wisconsin Law Journal's Woman of the Year. Photo courtesy Lt. Col. Robyn Blader
Among the more dramatic matters Blader handled overseas involved captured Afghans with suspected ties to al Qaeda. She made the legal determination to release two back to the Afghan National Police and to send another to the Parwan Detention Facility for further handling by the U.S. military.
Blader was also involved with volunteer work for a number of Afghan causes. In April, she received a Military Outstanding Volunteer Service medal for her work with volunteer organization Operation Outreach Afghanistan, which helps build and remodel schools.
"Children here attend school under tarps held up by wooden poles and dilapidated tents under the hot sun," she said. "There are no sewers, no water, no electricity, no heat and no playground equipment."
Blader also worked with Afghan women to improve their life skills and serves as project manager for the construction of wells, health clinics and roads through other humanitarian projects.
Back at home, she uses a combination of her military experience and family law background in her work to help deployed American Soldiers whose spouses file for divorce or who are cut off from their children.
"These issues weigh very heavily on Soldiers in a combat environment," Blader said.
Blader helped develop Wisconsin's Code of Military Justice, which was codified in the state statutes in 2008. The code allowed the Wisconsin National Guard to process court-martial actions for the first time.
Blader plans to return to her Wautoma practice, which law partner Jeanne Zamzow has maintained while she was away. She also will return to her post as regional defense counsel for Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.
This story is reprinted with permission by the Wisconsin Law Journal.