Written by Chad Garland for Stars and Stripes
An 82nd Airborne Division soldier is facing charges stemming from a deadly firefight in Syria between U.S. forces and those backing the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Nicoson, the platoon sergeant on a patrol that came under fire in August near the northeastern Syrian town of Qamishli, faces an Article 32 hearing later this month, similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, to review evidence against him on several charges related to that and at least one earlier incident.
The charges include two counts of failure to obey an order or regulation, two counts of reckless endangerment, one count of communicating threats and three counts of obstructing justice, division spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Burns said last week after Army Times reported on the case.
The gun battle broke out on what the U.S.-led coalition described at the time as a routine anti-Islamic State patrol, one of several altercations last year between U.S. military patrols and pro-regime Syrian forces or their Russian backers in the civil war that began in 2011.
The Americans had received “safe passage” from Syrian forces but took fire as they passed, the U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve said in a statement at the time. Coalition ground forces returned fire but supporting aircraft overhead didn’t strike.
A Syrian fighter was killed and two others were wounded in the incident. There were no coalition casualties.
Nicoson had been under consideration for a Bronze Star with valor device for his actions during the firefight, at least until September, said Phillip Stackhouse, his civilian attorney.
It’s unclear what changed, but the charges are based on a “very thin” inquiry conducted by the Army Criminal Investigation Command, Stackhouse said Friday by phone.
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