USACE Attorney of the Year Helps Afghan Colleague

Transatlantic Middle East District
Published July 12, 2023
Updated: July 12, 2023
Three women sitting at a desk.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District Attorneys Cara Mroczek (center) and Rebecca Bockmann, (right) along with paralegal Lindsay Nicodemus preparing a case for trial in October 2022. Mroczek was recently named USACE’s 2023 Attorney of the Year.

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) attorney Cara Mroczek was handed a case involving a disputed Afghan real estate contract a few years ago, she had no idea it would lead to a career defining moment that not only resulted in a big win for the U.S. government but also may have literally saved lives.  

Her efforts on the case were a large factor in her receiving the George Wolfe Koonce Award given to USACE’s attorney of the year.

In a nutshell, the case involved a dispute about who owned land being leased by the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.  Over the course of four years, Mroczek researched and litigated the case which involved coordinating with multiple other agencies, chasing in intricate paperwork trail and arguing the case before the Armed Services Contract Board which ultimately found in the U.S. Government’s favor saving tens of millions of dollars.

Rob McKenney, who is TAM’s District Counsel and Mroczek’ s supervisor, said he knew she was the right person for the task. 

“Her representation of USACE in the Abchakan Village case took an amazing amount of commitment, diligence, and fortitude, but Cara met every obstacle with an even stronger resolve to prevail on behalf of the Corps.”

One of the most important factors in the government’s victory was Mroczek’s use of an Afghan law expert who helped her track down and translate some of the documentation needed and navigate the Afghan court system. This is where the professional part of her job became personal.

Because the Afghan lawyer she was working with was known to work with the U.S., his family was in grave danger when Afghanistan returned to Taliban rule in 2021. With thousands of refugees fleeing Afghanistan, Cara felt obligated to help him get his family to safety.

She immediately went to work finding a DoD point of contact for the evacuation, and scrambled to provide the documentation to help the man and his family seek safety in the U.S.

Mroczek said for her part, she appreciated the amount of collaboration required in the case and that it meant a lot to her to have had the opportunity to make a difference.

“Working on this case, along with the TAM counsel team, the range of federal family agencies involved, and local Afghan expert is definitely a highlight of my 15+ year career as a federal attorney.  I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to help my Afghan attorney colleague and support the broader mission in the CENTCOM AOR.”

Rebecca Bockmann, TAM’s Deputy District Counsel, said that type of concern is one of the reasons she feels Mroczek was selected for the award.

“Cara is the perfect recipient for such a high honor because the efforts for which she was recognized as USACE’s Attorney of the Year are representative of the dedication she sets forth daily, to the many things in her life she values.  She is a tremendous advocate who consistently finds a way to ‘yes.’  She is also just as committed to investing in others; she always finds the time to serve as a mentor or assist other trial attorneys throughout USACE who lean on her for her litigation expertise.  She inspires those around her, and we are fortunate to have her as a colleague and friend,” said Bockmann.      

The USACE’s Transatlantic Middle East District supports U.S. Military and allied partner nation construction and engineering requirements in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in countries throughout the Middle East.