As U.S. troop levels in warzones such as Iraq and Afghanistan have dwindled, it is logical to expect fewer cases of our warfighters being accused of war crimes for battlefield actions overseas. Many times, UAP, which exists to support and defend unjustly accused and convicted service members, has been asked whether we will continue to have a mission if there are no major wars going on.
Sadly, our response is that as long as our brave troops continue being deployed to the front lines of places like the Middle East, Africa and Asia for lesser-known operations, the American public should expect more instances of our warfighters being second guessed and condemned for split-second, life-or-death decisions. Yet, our brave troops continue to make those decisions on a near daily basis in support of their country and their brothers to their left and right.
As recently as August 2020, an American warfighter, 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 the accused, 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 over 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. SFC Nicoson, his wife Beverly Nicoson an 8-year veteran herself, and their two young children have been waiting in limbo for far too long.
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.
As with every other case UAP has supported, we are prepared to fight for justice in this new case where a brave service member could face prison time for acting in accordance with how he was trained. The American military justice system is deeply flawed and often incentivizes and rewards prosecutors and commanders who overzealously hunt down and prosecute warfighters who acted in accordance with the rules of engagement.
You can provide direct support to SFC Nicoson and his family by making a tax-exempt donation that will give them relief from the legal fees that they are rapidly accruing.