Army

May 3, 2013

Bad decisions

Capt. Steven Shim
Trial Counsel

SJA, NTC and Fort Irwin

People today like to make light of the things people do and say after they’ve had too much to drink. Most people probably laughed when Vince Vaughn’s character in the movie “Wedding Crashers” said, “let’s get drunk and make some bad decisions,” as if it was something to brag about. It’s not. Those “bad decisions” have lasting consequences. In one Soldier’s case, the consequences were life changing.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Cabrera is a Soldier in the Army Reserves. He enlisted out of high school, and deployed three times. He was a top performer in his unit. During one deployment he was personally selected by a major general to serve on his personal security detachment. In the general’s opinion, Cabrera performed at the level of some lieutenant colonels. He wanted to try out for Special Forces. Everyone agreed that he was on the fast track and had a real future in the Army.

Prior to his last deployment, Cabrera was activated to go on temporary duty to obtain an additional skill identifier for his military occupational specialty. While TDY, he was selected as the class leader. During that course, he would make a series of fateful decisions that would jeopardize his career and change his life forever.

One weekend, Cabrera took a pass with two of his female Soldiers, a specialist and a sergeant. Even though they were his subordinates, he decided to share a hotel, socialize and drink with them. After a night of drinking, dancing and barhopping, one of the Soldiers got really drunk; so drunk that Cabrera had to help carry her back to their hotel room.

Cabrera made his first mistake when he dropped his professionalism and decided to get drunk with his Soldiers. The second and most serious mistake occurred when he decided to put his own desires ahead of the welfare of his Soldier. The Army expects good non-commissioned officers to take care of their Soldiers. The staff sergeant knew his Soldier was extremely vulnerable because she was so drunk. Instead of taking her back to the hotel room and making sure nothing happened to her, he took advantage of her.

The victim’s battle buddy tried to step in. The specialist told Cabrera that it would be wrong to try to have sex with the victim while she was drunk. But he didn’t care. He waited until the specialist went to sleep, and had sex with the victim anyway.

To answer for his crimes, Carbera was involuntarily called to active duty and assigned to Fort Irwin for six months. This past February, he was tried by a General Court-Martial. Cabrera pled guilty to maltreatment of a subordinate and committing an indecent act. He was sentenced to 18 months confinement and a bad conduct discharge. The sentence also requires total forfeiture of all pay and allowances and reduction to the grade of E-1.

Despite his honorable service during three deployments, Cabrera is no longer eligible for most benefits, including the post-9/11 GI Bill. If he paid into the Montgomery GI Bill, he lost that. Additionally, he will most likely not receive any benefits at all from the Department of Veterans Affairs. With a bad conduct discharge on his DD214 form, and a felony conviction, finding civilian employment will probably be very hard.

Cabrera went out and made some “bad decisions.” Don’t follow in his footsteps. Take care of each other, do what’s right, and stay out of jail.




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