In August 2020, Army Sergeant First Class Robert Nicoson found himself and 16 of his men fighting their way out of a complex ambush during combat operations in Syria after being waved through a checkpoint. Now SFC Nicoson, who was originally written up for a Bronze Star with valor award for his actions that day, finds himself in hot water with his command for his heroic and justified actions.
The checkpoint ambush was captured on video with aerial footage showing that the enemy forces opened fire after attempting to temporarily detain the American convoy at their checkpoint. As 9-12 hostile personnel began their attack on the Americans, the gunner on SFC Nicoson’s vehicle began to return fire. Realizing that the gunner would need to perform a reload on his crew served weapon, SFC Nicoson and one other enlisted soldier dismounted and exposed themselves multiple times to heavy and sustained enemy fire in order to draw attention away from the vehicle.
Once the majority of hostile forces were neutralized and sustained hostile fire became more sporadic, SFC Nicoson made sure that all of his troops were in their vehicles and they broke contact. The 10-minute active firefight caused damage to the convoy vehicles and resulted in at least one enemy combatant being killed. While there were Apache helicopters overhead, they were not authorized to engage. No Americans were killed during the engagement thanks to a decisive and coordinated response from their enlisted leader on the ground.
Upon breaking contact and returning to base all initially seemed to be well, but the subsequent investigation began to use supposed intel reports from the social media accounts of the enemy forces who had just ambushed the Americans. Would the command really take the word of the enemy of their own troops who were backed with video footage and communications recordings? The answer is yes.
Before SFC Nicoson was charged, his command ignored his constitutional rights that he was innocent until proven guilty and removed him from his official billet and suspended his security clearance.
On April 8, 2021, SFC Nicoson was officially charged with two counts of failure to follow a lawful order, two counts of reckless endangerment, one count of wrongful communication, and three counts of obstruction of justice.
On January 7, 2022, an Army court-martial panel (jury) comprised of 2 Lieutenant Colonels and 6 Command Sergeants Major found Sergeant First Class Robert Nicoson, U.S. Army, not guilty of all seven allegations. A motion for a finding of not guilty was granted to an eighth allegation at the end of the evidence phase.
The trial lasted for a week and over 20 witnesses were called to the stand to provide testimony to a combat experienced panel. After just over 2-hours of deliberations, the panel President delivered the verdict in open court.
WHO IS ROBERT NICOSON?
Army Sergeant First Class (SFC) Robert Nicoson, a 15-year decorated Army Veteran with multiple combat deployments. He is married to his wife Beverly (an 8-year veteran herself), and they are parents to two young children.
SFC Robert Nicoson is a native of Onondaga, Michigan. Through Highschool was a member of the Jackson Area JROTC program inspiring him to join the Army as a 19D Cavalry Scout in between his Junior and Senior year of high school on the Delayed Entry Program. He graduated from Springport Highschool in June of 2006, and left for One Station Unit Training (OSUT) at Fort Knox, Kentucky July 12th 2006. Upon completion of OSUT, (then) PFC Nicoson was assigned to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fort Hood Texas.
After in processing Fort Hood, He was placed into a leadership position as a gunner for a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. At the beginning of 2007 his unit conducted a rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. Later that same year, his unit left for a 15 month deployment from November 2007 to February 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During this deployment PFC Nicoson was promoted to Specialist and served in numerous positions to include Driver, Gunner, and Dismount. In 2008 SPC Nicoson reenlisted for 6 years asking for only one thing, to be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division.
Upon return from Iraq, he moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina and was assigned to Blackhorse Troop, 1-73 Cav, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division. Unable to attain an Airborne School slot until November of 2009, SPC Nicoson learned how to become a Paratrooper by asking questions and observing what exactly a Scout does that doesn’t have a vehicle. SPC Nicoson graduated Airborne School at the end of November, 2009. Once he returned to his Platoon, he was immediately put into a Team Leader position. In early January 2010 SPC Nicoson was activated on the Global Response Force and was on the first Aircraft that the 82nd Airborne sent to support the humanitarian relief after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. SPC Nicoson acted as a team leader for several high visibility missions including escorting President Bill Clinton, escorting Sean Penn, safely retrieving American citizens and getting them to the departing Airplanes, and securing a Port with minimal equipment for 12 days (to be relieved by a Battalion sized element). Once returning to Fort Bragg, SPC Nicoson studied for Jumpmaster school so he could take the Jumpmaster Pre Test. When he passed the Jumpmaster Pre Test in March of 2010, SPC Nicoson was then promoted to Corporal. During the next year Cpl Nicoson was the “go-to” NCO of his Platoon, completing Warrior Leaders Course, leading a Scout Team in numerous Airborne Operations, Joint Readiness Training Center rotations, and field operations. Cpl Nicoson was soon sent to the promotion board to become a Sergeant. When Cpl Nicoson passed the promotion board in 2010, he was promoted to Sergeant Jan 1st 2011. Shortly after this Sgt Nicoson deployed to Iraq in Support of Operation New Dawn as the Senior Dismount Team Leader. Returning 7 months later, he extended his contract to meet the requirement to accept his orders to move to Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Once in Alaska Sgt Nicoson was immediately put into a Section Leader Position in charge of his peers. In 2013 he completed Jumpmaster School on his first attempt and within months he became a Senior Rated Jumpmaster making him the only senior rated SGT in the Brigade. On January 1st 2014 he was promoted to Staff Sergeant and finished 36 months Section Leader time. He completed Advanced Leaders Course and Advanced Situational Awareness Course in 2014. He was selected by his Brigade to be 1 of 4 NCOs to assist in advising a very high profile United Nations Training Mission in Mongolia. Once he returned he volunteered to take charge and become the NCOIC for Troop Operations, giving new Staff Sergeants the opportunity to gain experience as Section Leaders. In 2015, SSG Nicoson received orders to become an Airborne Instructor at Fort Benning, Georgia.
He was assigned to 1-507th PIR as an Airborne Instructor in August 2015 completing the Basic Instructors Course. He excelled and learned all the training drills, his formal block of instruction and learned an additional Formal Block of Instruction. It was here, that he met his beautiful wife, Beverly. He remained an Airborne Instructor until July 2017 when he was hired as a Jumpmaster instructor. He learned his block of instruction and the JMPI Talk-Throughs in less time than what was reasonably expected of a new instructor. After marrying Beverly on April 1st, 2017, he was selected for promotion to Sergeant First Class, one of only a few 19D selectees within the Brigade. In February 2018, due to his large amount of knowledge, and tact when interacting with foreign national visitors and high ranking individuals he was moved to the position of Chief Instructor within the United States Army Jumpmaster School. While in position he wrote the proper JMPI sequence for how to inspect the Head-Loc retention system; re-wrote all testing material including the question bank (the only questions that can be used on all written exams used in any Jumpmaster School in the Department of Defense) that is used by Advanced Airborne School and US Army Jumpmaster School; re-wrote the study guide and all POI/TSPs to reflect the updated TC 3-21.220; re-designed the process for how to become a certified Jumpmaster Instructor; was responsible for all travel arrangements for Jumpmaster school to travel around the world teaching Jumpmaster School as well as other additional duties. In July of 2018, they welcomed their beautiful daughter Amelia into this world. He completed Senior Leaders Course in February 2019. By this time he has served 45 months in numerous positions in the 1-507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
On June 1st 2019, He was promoted to Sergeant First Class, and did an inter post transfer to the Military Advisor Training Academy (MATA). When he was hired, due to his expertise and knowledge of doctrinal writing he was placed on “Team 3”, which was responsible for designing, developing, and updating POI on how MATA instructed service members on Key Leader Engagements and Advising Techniques during their 35 day course, overseeing the establishment of resources and hour by hour training for over 567 hours of instruction. SFC Nicoson received orders to 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division only 3 months after arriving to MATA. SFC Nicoson still decided to attend the Advisors course in 2019 where he excelled and ranked number one of three Senior NCOs on his team. SFC Nicoson, his pregnant wife, and 1 year old daughter then moved to Fort Bragg, NC.
Arriving at Fort Bragg on January 10th 2020, shortly after the unit he was supposed to be assigned to deployed, he was pushed through in-processing and given a packing list telling him that he was leaving and heading overseas on January 14th 2020 and even his wife due with their son in April, he didn’t complain and maintained a positive attitude. The day before he was due to leave, he received a phone call telling him that he was reporting to 2nd BCT instead of leaving. He was assigned to Blackhorse Troop, 1-73 Cav, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division (the same unit he was assigned to in 2009). He was informed that he would be deploying to Syria for 9 months in March. Still with his wife due in April, they stayed strong and kept a positive attitude. SFC Nicoson led 3rd Platoon into the 2 week long Syrian train up just weeks after he took responsibility of this Platoon. With half the Platoon new soldiers, and a new Platoon Leader, SFC Nicoson still led the way, being recognized by the Squadron Intelligence Company as the Best Key Leader Engagement Platoon. Due to COVID, their Deployment was postponed, and he deployed to Syria exactly 2 months after his son Russell was born. SFC Nicoson led countless reconnaissance patrols, and helped develop a new Base Defense Plan for his Troop outpost. He returned from Syria in December of 2020.
Awards and Decorations
- Meritorious Service Medal (1)
- Army Commendation Medals (4)
- Army Achievement Medals (4)
- Meritorious Unit Citation (1)
- Good Conduct Medal (4)
- Iraqi Campaign Medal (Combat Service) (3)
- Humanitarian Service Medal (1)
- Army Superior Unit Award (2)
- Master Parachutist