On October 16, 2017, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misconduct in front of the enemy.
Following the plea, a military judge heard testimony from numerous witnesses who knew Bergdahl or participated in the search to find him. Soon the military judge is expected to hand down Bergdahl’s sentence based on his actions, his time in captivity, and the impact on the soldiers who have spent weeks searching across Afghanistan. We are the Mighty has been in the courtroom since the plea and heard many details that had never been disclosed before.
Here is a list of ten things you need to know before the judge hands down his sentence.
10. Bergdahl was a renunciation soldier
Bergdahl entered the military in 2008 on a waiver after being fired from the Coast Guard nearly two years earlier. The military has yet to confirm whether his waiver was related to mental health issues, but upon his release from captivity, Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Some symptoms of this disorder include difficulty adjusting to social situations and a distrust of others. During preliminary hearings, the military ruled that despite his diagnosis, Bergdahl understood his actions when he left office in 2009.
9. It has been described as “squared”
When giving evidence at trial, some fellow soldiers – including its former leaders – described Bergdahl as “squared.” Many witnesses said Bergdahl always wore the designated uniform, on time and in the right place. In his spare time he even read field textbooks and philosophy books. This is one of the most interesting turning points in the affair and asks the question: “How did Bergdahl go from being a squared soldier to a deserter?”
Read also : That’s why Bowe Bergdahl says he pleaded guilty
8. It was deployed late
While the rest of Bergdahl’s unit, the 25th ID 4th Brigade, was deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009, he was left behind with a staph infection. After recovering, Bergdahl was eventually deployed as an individual augmentation and was with his platoon in Afghanistan for less than two months before leaving. When the military judge asked him during the trial if he knew his service in Afghanistan was important, Bergdahl replied, “At the time, it was difficult for me to understand.
7. There were red flags
In the days and weeks leading up to his departure, Bergdahl displayed behavior that might have seemed normal until he was bound by investigators, revealing that he may have planned his desertion to advance.
First, he sent his computer home, which would be odd for many other soldiers, as writing emails and watching movies is a great way to pass the downtime from the deployment.
Second, he went to finance and requested a cash advance before returning to his outpost and leaving afterwards.
Finally, he left all of his serialized gear (weapon, night vision, etc.) at his outpost. One soldier testified that when he found the equipment in an orderly pile, he knew Bergdahl had left on his own.
6. Its outpost was “Hell on Earth”
Bergdahl’s platoon was assigned to OP Mest, a small checkpoint in Paktika province near the Pakistani border. OP Mest kept a road intersection and was literally located right next to the village of Mest. The outpost was built in a dry river bed that was often flooded during spring rains. Due to bad weather and poor living conditions, many soldiers in the platoon suffered from severe cases of dysentery. In addition, the outpost was built on an Afghan cemetery; some soldiers even found bones while digging out their combat positions.
5. His platoon searched for 10 days in a row
After Bergdahl’s disappearance, the other soldiers of his platoon are in charge of finding him.
During the first few hours and days, the platoon made an almost constant rotation of patrols in the area in an attempt to find Bergdahl. At one point, they stretched so much that there was only a team of three firefighters left at the outpost to take care of the radio. Many soldiers describe the first days of the search as “complete hell”.
After 10 days, the platoon was allowed to rest and recuperate. Many soldiers had to buy new socks and new uniforms which had literally rotted from their bodies. According to army lawyers, the Bergdahl’s official research would last another 45 days.
4. The SEAL 6 team pursued Bergdahl and the enemy killed his dog.
During the first week of the search, the SEAL 6 team was ordered to find Bergdahl given their unique and specialized training in hostage recovery missions. When one of the SEALs testified at trial, he remembers saying that “someone is going to be injured or killed looking for this child”. A few nights later, the SEALs raided a house where they suspected Bergdahl was being held. During the mission, one of the SEALs received 7 bullets and its military working dog was killed by the enemy.
3. Afghan elections put an end to research
The summer of 2009 was a critical moment in the war in Afghanistan. Afghan elections were scheduled for August and a major mission of US forces was to protect polling stations from attack and corruption. When Bergdahl left at the end of June, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
For weeks, thousands of troops across Afghanistan have been ordered to focus on counterinsurgency missions to search for recovery operations to find Bergdahl. So many soldiers were inundated in the area where Bergdahl went missing that field commanders created a second unit to coordinate search efforts.
In August, attention shifted from Bergdahl to the elections and the future of Afghanistan.
2. He is an Intel source since his return
When Bergdahl returned to US forces in 2014, he was immediately questioned about his time in captivity. During the trial, some of the intelligence agents testified that Bergdahl was a “gold mine” of information.
Bergdahl’s intelligence value has been defined in two ways. First, a DOD representative from the group that runs the Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape (SERE) school said Bergdahl’s detailed description of his captivity would help “prepare the forces for the future.” Second, the senior intelligence analyst who tracks the Haqqani Network, the group that detained Bergdahl for almost 5 years, told the military judge that the information from the debriefing helped “build [an understanding] network capture like never before.
1. His charges were reduced before he pleaded guilty
The military initially accused Bergdahl of desertion and misconduct in front of the enemy during combat operations in Afghanistan. However, after months of arguments by lawyers on both sides, Bergdahl finally pleaded guilty to desertion and misconduct in front of the enemy during guard duty at OP Mest and a possible convoy patrol scheduled for the next day.
While this change may seem minor, the distinction is essential during the sentencing phase of the trial. The military judge will now only consider Bergdahl’s actions for the first few hours before he is captured by the enemy instead of the nearly five years that Bergdahl has been missing.