When Soldiers Get Arrested – And Why It Can Be Misleading

It hits the headlines. Large groups of service members arrested in nightclub brawl. The chain of command is immediately put on the defensive, and the host nation country reinvigorates its frustration with US service members being stationed in their city. But is it always justified?

Two recent incidents have struck a nerve with our international partners. On May 2, 2016 a video was published showing a group of people fighting in the street in front of the UN Club in South Korea. Confirmed to be members of the 2nd Infantry Division, nine were punished with their punishments ranging from non-judicial punishment to summary court martial boards. On May 9, 2016, 13 service members from the 173rd Airborne were arrested after a brawl at a downtown night club in Vicenza, Italy. The initial reports show that at least 40 people participated with hand held weapons to include bats and broken bottles.

So, what is really going on here and what can be done to stop it?

Host nation laws often differ from our laws. It is not uncommon for large groups of people to be detained by host nation police forces until a clearer picture can be determined of what occurred. South Korean detention laws allow them to detain a foreign national throughout the investigation and trial process so that they cannot flee the country. So, if applied to a brawl, it is entirely conceivable that any service members present may be arrested.

CuffsThis will create an immediate response. Consider from your own unit if 10 members of a platoon were to be arrested on a Saturday night. Think about how the brigade, battalion, and company level leadership would react. What would it say about your organization as a whole? About your discipline? What about if there were simply 10 members of the organization present, but only one participated in the fight and the other nine attempted to break it up and calm people down? See how things change?

The foreign governments are surely not wrong to do as they do. The United States military has on occasion sent a service member back home to the United States instead of face punishment overseas. This kind of action may significantly influence the host nation police forces decisions to detain on sight. In this way, they are ensuring that due process has an opportunity to occur.

When videos show service members acting foolish, brawling, and committing crimes, it should not come as a surprise that they get in trouble. When all that is provided is an initial report though, it is important to let the process play out. Allow more information to be gathered before jumping to conclusions. This will help to prevent the overreactions that the military is so well-known for and allow the host nation to demonstrate their abilities to a fair process.

We cannot protect people from themselves when they choose to make poor decisions. We can, though, help to better understand what occurred and why it happened before we brand entire units as undisciplined children running amok in a foreign country.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler is an active duty Infantry Officer serving in the US Army. He has served in the military for more than 10 years, working his way from an Infantry Squad Leader to a Company Commander with multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in between. Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Willamette University, and three Master degrees from Jones International University in Information Security Management, Health Care Management, and International Business. He also holds certifications in Six Sigma Lean and Six Sigma Lean Black Belt. His primary focus is realigning organizational priorities to get the most out of the time available in terms of training and development. Prior to entering military service, he worked as a fire fighter and an EMT. His areas of knowledge include military, training, leadership, disaster and continuity planning.
Kyle Soler

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