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Old 01-14-2019, 12:16 PM
Velocity Velocity is online now
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Penalty for military personnel who rescue civilians they're not supposed to

I recall a YouTube video from several years ago - a U.S. military helicopter that landed in Yazidi territory (in an area where Yazidis were facing the threat of mass killing by ISIS or something like that) and a Yazidi family apparently rushed the helo and clambered aboard and then the helicopter took off and (presumably brought the Yazidi family to a U.S. base or something.)

I don't know if the U.S. military helo crew was supposed to pick up endangered Yazidis or not. But - suppose they weren't supposed to (just on some unrelated mission), but a family of refugees or similarly endangered people clambered aboard their helicopter and the pilot couldn't bear to tell them to get off and face death, and took them back to his Navy/Army/Air Force base - what is the pilot likely to be charged with, if court-martialed?

Just "unauthorized action?" (if that's a thing)

Last edited by Velocity; 01-14-2019 at 12:17 PM.
Old 01-15-2019, 03:35 AM
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Bear_Nenno Bear_Nenno is offline
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Nothing. It would be different if he left the base to go on an unauthorized rescue mission. But if you're out on mission and happen to rescue someone in a "life, limb, or eyesight" situation, you're not going to get in any trouble. At most, if command didn't agree with the decision, he'd be told to not do it again.
Old 01-15-2019, 03:48 AM
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Alessan Alessan is online now
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Contrary to popular belief, military forces are comprised of human beings, and humans are fundamentally decent - or at least, most of them like to think of themselves as being so. Most of them wouldn't punish a fellow service member for doing a good deed.
Old 01-15-2019, 04:06 AM
JB99 JB99 is offline
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There are three points that need to be made here.

(1) Only a complete monster (or a total buffoon) would actually punish someone for trying to rescue or protect civilians. From both a moral and a practical standpoint, that’s a total non-starter. The negative PR alone would be just awful.

I actually ran into something like this in a JRTC training event. The soldiers were authorized to give water to civilian refugees they encountered. A report came in that some soldiers had encountered refugees and gave them snacks. We had this Captain freaking out because, “They’re allowed to give them water but they are not allowed to give them snacks.” As if this was a HUGE DEAL. There was a room full of people just staring at her as if she was some kind of idiot. It was both hilarious and pathetic.

(2) Anyway... Sometimes a soldier might be ordered to not intervene in an event, usually if it is civilian - on - civilian crime (eg assault, drugs, theft etc). IIRC, we were allowed to intervene if it was a life and death type thing. If a person did violate whatever rule and the command did want to hem them up about it, they could be charged with “Disobeying a Lawful Order.”

The reality of military justice is that a lot of it depends on who you are and how pissed off the command is. Usually people who get harsh punishments for minor infractions did something to piss off their commander. Someone who does the right thing for the right reasons and has a good reputation is far more likely to get a hand wave. If you see someone get punished for something petty or stupid, odds are that they are a repeat offender, have a bad reputation, and/or did something to anger the command such that they are “looking for an excuse” to expel the soldier. My experience has been that commanders are usually loathe to discipline people without good reason, because the bureaucracy is such a pain in the ass.

(3) The UCMJ gives commanders wide latitude in punishment and is big on considering the “totality of circumstances.” It is not big on things like mandatory or prescribed sentencing. The type of punishments available depend on the rank and level of the tribunal (ie the more severe the crimes are referred to higher authorities who have the power to impose harsher punishments.) It is futile to ask, “What is the punishment for X?” because the commander has tremendous discretion in what punishment they impose.
Old 01-15-2019, 07:52 AM
Banksiaman Banksiaman is offline
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Not quite a reply to the OP but in the Balkan Wars Dutch UN troops who were protecting a Muslim enclave at Srebrenica in Bosnia failed to act when Serbian militia attacked people sheltering there, and taking away a great number of Muslim men for systematic execution. In fairness they were lightly armed, as per UN requirements, but refused access to their base to protect those people who were fleeing their attackers.

In consequence the Dutch government resigned, in shame, and quite right too.

I guess the punishment if you don't do it is the long-term psychological impact on you and the reputational damage to your country and army as a brand [which they may or may not value]. Perhaps disobeying orders and doing the opposite gives you something resembling the opposite effects as well - psychological peace and better reputation [but there's probably someone who'll still want you cleaning latrines for eternity].


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