Written by By Jeff Schogol | Updated Aug 4, 2021 8:56 AM
A soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division is heading to a court-martial in connection with a murky incident in Syria last summer in which U.S. troops and pro-regime forces exchanged gunfire.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Rob Nicoson faces charges of violating orders, reckless endangerment, making unlawful threats, and obstruction of justice, said Lt. Col. Brett Lea, a division spokesman.
Military officials have so far provided little information about the Aug. 17, 2020 incident in Tal Az-Zahab, Syria, that preceded charges against Nicoson, who was serving in the division’s Blackhorse Troop, 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment.
The U.S. military command in Iraq and Syria issued a brief statement at the time saying that American troops had encountered a checkpoint run by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, and Syrian state-run media, said U.S. forces called in helicopter gunships during the 10-minute firefight, which killed one Syrian soldier and wounded two others.
“After receiving safe passage from the pro-regime forces, the patrol came under small arms fire from the individuals in the vicinity of the checkpoint,” an Aug. 17, 2020 statement from Operation Inherent Resolve says. “Coalition forces returned fire in self-defense. The Coalition did not conduct an airstrike. No casualties occurred. The Coalition patrol returned to base. The incident remains under investigation.”
فيديو يظهر الاشتباك بين عناصر من #الجيش_السوري وقوات الاحتلال الأميركي اثناء مرور الدورية الامريكية واعتراضهم من عناصر حاجز الجيش في #تل_الذهب بريف #القامشلي
لتقوم بعدها مروحيتان للاحتلال الأميركي بقصف عناصر الحاجز ما أدى لاستشهاد عنصر وإصابة إثنين pic.twitter.com/kjhgPSSZyG
— خالد اسكيف (@khalediskef) August 17, 2020
So far, military officials have not said publicly what Nicoson did leading up to and during the encounter with pro-Syrian regime forces, nor has any official explained why Nicoson’s alleged actions may have violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The charges stem from allegations that Nicoson put his soldiers in a “situation they shouldn’t have been in and made threats” toward regime soldiers, according to an Army Times report citing his attorney.
Nicoson’s charge sheet will not be publicly released until his arraignment, which is expected to take place in the next couple weeks, Lea said.
“It’s unfortunate, and frankly an injustice, that the charges were referred to a general court-martial in Rob’s case,” said Phillip Stackhouse, Nicoson’s civilian attorney. “The preliminary hearing officer pointed out the weakness in the investigation, the tainted witness statements, pointed out the problems facing the prosecution, and recommended some charges be dismissed – without the prosecutors calling one witness.”
“It’s not going to get any better for the prosecution,” Stackhouse continued. “All of that was apparently ignored by the commanding general. Instead, the commanding general followed the staff judge advocate advice that was completely devoid of any analysis. Now we begin down the long road to real justice and the crucible of trial.”
Read the full article at Task & Purpose