Soldier faces up to 15 years for alleged air drop sabotage

A soldier has been charged in the 2016 destruction of three humvees that was shown in a viral video from Saber Junction 2016, meaning he faces up to 10 years in prison as well as dishonorable discharge for the willful destruction of government property as well as up to five additional years for making a false official statement.

Army Sgt. John Skipper serves in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team’s 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment. He was charged in May for his alleged role in the destruction of the vehicles, according to the Stars and Stripes.

173rd airborne brigade

173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers conduct exercises in partnership with NATO forces during Saber Junction 16, an operation that was marred by the destruction of three HMMWVs, which the Army now alleges was the fault of Sgt. John Skipper. (Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. Randy Wren)

The high-mobility multi-wheeled vehicles, commonly called humvees, separated from their pallets during an air drop. The mission was part of Operation Saber Junction 16, a massive exercise designed to test the 173rd’s readiness, improve NATO interoperability, and show America’s resolve in Europe.

A video of the incident released on social media showed the stunning destruction as a group of men cheered when each humvee fell. (Warning: Contains colorful language.)

Skipper will proceed to an Article 32 probable cause hearing, which plays out like a mini trial. Military lawyers for the prosecuting authority and the defense will be able to make arguments and present evidence in front of a preliminary hearing officer.

At the end of the hearing, the lawyers will make final recommendations on how they think the case should proceed, generally the prosecuting lawyers will push for general court martial and the defense will request less severe means such as administrative punishment or special court martial, which has less severe maximum penalties.

If the evidence against Skipper is determined to be great and the case is sent to general court martial, he could face up to 15 years for the combined charges. This is still better than he would face in the civilian courts where an additional $250,000 maximum fine could be added to the punishment.

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