Posted: November 03, 2017
By Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for five years, did, however, receive a dishonorable discharge for deserting his post.
Shortly after Friday’s news, President Donald Trump, who criticized Bergdahl on his 2016 presidential campaign trail, called the sentence a “disgrace” in a tweet.
The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2017
Here are nine things to know about former American prisoner of war Bergdahl:
He’s from Idaho.
He was born in Sun Valley, Idaho, on March 28, 1986, and grew up in Hailey, Idaho, amid the Sawtooth Mountains.
According to The Associated Press, his home was “a humble place with a weather-beaten roof, sits nestled among hills of alder and sage.”
He was home-schooled.
Bergdahl and his older sister were taught at home near Hailey, Idaho, where they lived with parents Robert and Jani Bergdahl.
He received a GED from a local college.
He used to dance ballet.
Bergdahl was a dancer with the Sun Valley Ballet School until his early 20s. He also dabbed in martial arts and fencing and had a love for the outdoors.
Watch one of his ballet performances below:
He once worked as a crewman on a sailboat.
As a crewman, Bergdahl sailed along the East Coast and down to the Caribbean, as well as out of Bristol Bay, Alaska.
He enlisted in the Army in 2008 and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009.
In 2009, Bergdahl was deployed from his first assignment in Fort Richardson, Alaska, to Outpost Mest Malak in Paktika Province (eastern Afghanistan), as a machine gunner.
Biography.com reported that though Bergdahl told his parents he was initially thrilled by the experience, he eventually “sour[ed] on the purpose of American forces in the region.”
Their mission in Afghanistan was to “get the Taliban,” Bergdahl’s former Army team leader Evan Buetow said.
That means they’d perform combat operations, but also patrol villages, train the Afghan National Police and gather intelligence by earning the respect of locals.
Platoon medic Josh Cornelison told the AP that Bergdahl preferred the humanitarian aspect of the job than the “actual combat side of a deployment. He wasn’t so fond of that at all.”
This is what he said in his last email to his parents from the field:
On June 27, 2009, Bergdahl sent this email to his parents:
“I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live,” he wrote.
Bergdahl also wrote about a time an Army vehicle had run over a local girl, but “we don’t even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks.”
His father responded to the email and wrote, “Dear Bowe, In matters of life and death, and especially at war, it is never safe to ignore ones’ conscience.”
Bergdahl’s parents shared the emails with Rolling Stone magazine.
He abandoned his post on June 30 and was captured by the Taliban.
His abandonment on June 30 set off an extensive search that eventually led to the death of at least six servicemen.
The next month, Bergdahl surfaced in a 28-minute online video posted by the Taliban in which he seemed unharmed.
U.S. intelligence believed he was being held captive by the militant Haqqani network, which had ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
He was released on June 13, 2014.
The Taliban posted several more videos over the next five years featuring Bergdahl in deteriorating condition.
Bergdahl later revealed that he had been tortured and brutally beaten, at times spending long stints locked in a cage, where he was chained on all fours.
In 2014, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. had successfully negotiated his release.
The U.S. agreed to release five Taliban members who were being detailed at the Guantanomo Bay Naval Station in Cuba.
But former platoon mates and other critics spoke out against Bergdahl’s being heralded as a hero during his release.
“That’s exactly the opposite of what he is,” Buetow said.
“In Hailey, joy quickly turned to bafflement as townspeople faced an onslaught of hate mail and angry phone calls from people who said Bergdahl doesn’t deserve to be celebrated. A planned welcome-home party was cancelled. His parents are surprised and ‘very hurt’ by the outcry, a former pastor who is in touch with them said.”
About the investigation and charges:
An Army investigation into what led to Bergdahl’s disappearance on June 30, 2009, concluded by charging Bergdahl with “one count of desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty and one count of misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.”
Though the second charge could potentially lead to life improsonment, Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder “at the time of the alleged criminal conduct” in an Army Sanity Board evaulation and now suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder. Investigators recommended he avoid additional incarceration.
Bergdahl spoke about his gruesome experience on the second season of the popular podcast, “Serial,” in 2015 and 2016, and said he initially abandoned his post to rebel against the poor leadership of his Army supervisors and planned to gather intelligence on his own.
After the podcast’s first episode was released, Gen. Robert Abrams, of U.S. Army Forces Command, said he would reject the original investigation charges and referring Bergdahl’s case to a general court-martial.
During the 2016 campaign trail, president-elect Trump suggested Bergdahl should be executed for abandoning his fellow Army soldiers, a comment the defense said hindered the potential of a fair trial. But the trial went on.
Bergdahl put his fate into the hands of military judge Col. Jeffery Nance in August and pleaded guilty to desertion, and misbehavior before the enemy.
On Nov. 3, Nance ruled Bergdahl would not serve prison time, but will be dishonorably discharged.
Bergdahl’s rank was also reduced from sergeant to E1 and he will be required to pay a $1,000 fine from his salary for 10 months.
Sources: The Associated Press, Biography.com
Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban. He was released in a 2014 prisoner exchange for five Taliban prisoners.
Bergdahl, 31, told the judge that he “left [his] observation post on [his] own.”
“I understand leaving was against the law,” he said.
But Bergdahl also said he deserted his post to try and reach his dispatch base to report a “critical problem in my chain of command,” CNN reported.
He didn’t say what the “critical problem” was.
Bergdahl could get up to life in prison when he’s sentenced by the military judge.
New documents made public Wednesday, show U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had a psychiatric disorder when he left his post in Afghanistan.
An Army Sanity Board Evaluation found Bergdahl suffered from schizotypal personality disorder when he left the post in 2009. Those who have the disorder are often labeled as odd or eccentric and have few close relationships.
Bergdahl was held for five years by the Taliban before being released in May 2014 in a controversial prisoner swap that involved Guantanamo Bay detainees.
He now faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl's lawyer says he hopes releasing the documents will help tamp down some of the negative press his client has received, including recent comments made by presidential candidate Donald Trump.
"The more Americans know about this case, the better," attorney Eugene Fidell said in an email to the Associated Press.
Bergdahl has said he left his post to hopefully draw attention to what he perceived as bad decisions being made by his commanding officers.
(Reuters) - U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a former Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan who was released last summer as part of a controversial prisoner exchange, has been charged with desertion and misbehavior, his attorney said on Wednesday.
>> Read more trending stories
Bergdahl's hearing was set for April 22 in San Antonio, his attorney said. The Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina said earlier on Wednesday that it would provide an update on Bergdahl's case.
After five long years, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been freed by his Taliban captors. And with his release — a lot of questions.
Among them, why did he wander from his base? What did he learn from his captors? And perhaps most importantly, what will come of the five senior Taliban figures who were part of the prisoner swap? (Via KOIN)
We do know the five detainees were at Guantanamo Bay and will now be sent to Qatar where they will remain for one year while being monitored by the Qatari government. (Via RT)
As Nic Robertson asked on CNN, “The question is will they get involved in the political aspect of the Taliban's still ongoing effort to fight and parts of Afghanistan? Will they try to enter and get back into the battlefield? (Via CNN)
According to U.S. officials, none of these men are believed to have links to Al Qaeda, but critics — including top Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services committees — contend they could still pose a risk.
Sen. John McCain — a former prisoner of war himself — expressed his concerns with the tactics used to get Bergdahl home, calling the detainees "hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands."
Others warn the prisoner swap could set a dangerous precedent. U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon and Sen. Jim Inhofe wrote in a statement provided to Fox News, “Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans.”
The White House is hitting back, saying it did not directly negotiate with terrorists. Instead, the Qataris acted as intermediaries. (Via Euronews)
But that's done little to silence the critics who point out the president is required by law to notify Congress 30 days before transferring prisoners from Guantanamo — which he didn’t do.
According to Josh Rogin with The Daily Beast, “The White House risked that they could break this law with little to no consequences and that’s likely to be the effect.” (Via NBC)
The Defense Department responded to the accusations, saying key members of Congress were notified before the transfer. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters the administration had to move quickly due to Bergdahl's declining health and safety.
The U.S. military has reportedly obtained a video of the only American soldier currently held in captivity, and it says the footage proves Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is still alive.
CNN reports the video hasn't been released to the public yet, but an official tells the network Bergdahl is starting to look frail.
"The video ... shows Bowe in diminished health from the effects of close to five years now in captivity. The proof of life has a reference to Dec. 14 of last year, just a month ago."
Bergdahl was taken into captivity in June 2009 after leaving his military base in Afghanistan alone and on foot. He's believed to be held by the Haqqani network in Pakistan.
Videos of the now-27-year-old Bergdahl have been released before, but this is the first one in nearly three years. A defense analyst tells Fox News these videos, while reassuring, can also raise false hope. (Via Time)
"On the face of it, good news for family and friends, but there are serious complexities because proof of life doesn't necessarily mean an imminent release."
Bergdahl's family released a statement through a spokesperson, saying: "As we have done so many times over the past 4 and a half years, we request his captors to release him safely so that our only son can be reunited with his mother and father. BOWE - If (you) see this, continue to remain strong through patience. Your endurance will carry you to the finish line. Breathe!" (Via Times-News)
His captors have made demands before, asking for the release of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners in exchange for freeing Bergdahl. So far the Pentagon has refused the deal but says it's using all tools available to get Bergdahl home safely.
- See more at Newsy.com
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