173rd Airborne soldier gets four years for break-in on Afghanistan base
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — A 173rd Airborne Brigade soldier will spend four years in prison for breaking into an Afghan electronics shop and assaulting an Afghan army sergeant who stumbled upon him and two other U.S. troops as they were committing the crime.
Pfc. Mark A. Fripp Jr., 20, of Beaufort, S.C., also received a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and reduction in rank to E-1 in the May 7 sentencing after being convicted during a court-martial of conspiracy, larceny, housebreaking and assault charges, according to the prosecutor in the case.
Fripp and two other soldiers from Fusion Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, used bolt cutters shortly after 1 a.m. on Nov. 16 to break into an electronics shop owned by an Afghan man at Forward Operating Base Fenty in eastern Afghanistan, said Capt. Eric Hanson, a prosecutor for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
One soldier stood outside with his rifle, acting as a lookout, while Fripp and the other soldier stole more than $8,000 worth of DVD players, computer hard drives, cell phones, SIM cards and other items including the shop’s cash box, stuffing them into two Army-issue duffel bags, Hanson said.
But as Fripp and the other soldier were looting the shop, Afghan army Sgt. Noor Rahman walked by and ran into the lookout. The lookout tried to distract Rahman, asking him for a light for his cigarette, but the Afghan sergeant heard a noise and spotted Fripp and the other soldier inside, Hanson said.
A struggle ensued as Rahman grabbed one of the duffel bags and Fripp and the other soldier tried to take it from him. The soldier acting as lookout then locked and loaded his weapon and pointed it at Rahman, Hanson said.
After Rahman froze, the three Americans fled but Rahman had managed to hang on to one of the duffel bags. It was stenciled with the name of the soldiers’ unit. In the side pocket, one of their names was on a packing list, Hanson said.
When military police and unit commanders searched the suspects’ tent around 10 a.m. the next morning, they discovered bolt cutters under Fripp’s bed, Hanson said. Several stolen items were also recovered.
Forensic testing later matched the bolt cutters to two severed locks the suspects left at the scene, Hanson said. Fripp is now in U.S. custody at a holding facility in Kuwait until authorities decide where he will serve out his sentence.
Hanson said the two other suspects in the case are still in Afghanistan, but charges against them are expected soon.
Hanson said the incident had produced a “measurable negative effect” on relations between Afghans working on Forward Operating Base Fenty and American troops stationed there. He said the crime had also undermined U.S. efforts to mentor Afghan troops in how to properly treat civilians.
Maj. Will Helixon, the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s judge advocate, said the stiff sentence that Fripp received also sends a strong message to U.S. forces.
“It says, ‘Hey troops, if you’re going to commit crimes against Afghans, then you’re going to pay the price,’ ” he said.