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Why Was Bergdahl In The Army In First Place?
In two hours of unsworn testimony Monday, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl called walking off his remote outpost in Afghanistan “a horrible mistake.” He has already pleaded guilty to desertion and faces the prospect of life in prison during the sentencing phase of his court-martial, which continues on Fort Bragg. Bergdahl also testified about his brutal treatment while a prisoner for five years under the Taliban, which picked him up not long after he left his post.
Whatever Bergdahl’s fate, his trial may yet leave unanswered one of the more pressing questions in his story: Why did the Army take in the troubled recruit in the first place? He had washed out of the Coast Guard after only three weeks. To even a layperson, his background would not have seemed like one that made him ready to tackle the stress of places like Afghanistan or Iraq. That should have been even more apparent to the Army. As Time magazine asked, “If he couldn’t tend to the coasts, why’d the Army think he could handle the Taliban?”
The Coast Guard has an undeserved reputation as being easy duty. For certain, the training in its boot camp is not easy. The dramatic circumstances of Bergdahl’s failing to complete the training is not so much evidence that he could not handle an easy entry process, but that he was probably not a good candidate for military service, period. The Coast Guard classified his exit during training as an “uncharacterized discharge” — and importantly not a psychological discharge, which would have triggered a mental health evaluation if he tried to join another branch. It is unclear why the discharge was coded in that way, especially since a Coast Guard psychiatrist recommended an evaluation if Bergdahl tried to reenlist. The service diagnosed him with “adjustment disorder with depression.”
In this Sept. 27, 2017, file photo, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl leaves a motions hearing during a lunch break in Fort Bragg, N.C.Andrew Craft/The Fayetteville Observer via AP
The details of Bergdahl’s break with the branch, which were cobbled together for the 2016 podcast “Serial,” present a much more troubling picture. The podcast includes interviews from several people who served with or who knew Bergdahl, as well as audio of Bergdahl himself from an interview he gave to filmmaker Mark Boal. Men who were in the Coast Guard boot camp at Cape May, New Jersey, with Bergdahl describe the cold February night in 2006 when he broke down. They say he did not respond when the recruits were counting off for the night. He was discovered in the bathroom.
“We go running back and, uh, go running into the head,” John Raffa told “Serial” interviewer Sarah Koenig. “And there he was. He, um...he had bloodied himself pretty good. Uh, I'm...we were never sure exactly how he did it, but there was quite a bit of blood. There was some blood on the wall, uh, blood on the mirrors, blood on the...on the...the sink of the counter-top area. Um, and he was bleeding from his face. There was, you know, blood on his hands. It looked like he had kind of smashed his face into the mirror. Um...and he was huddled up crying. He was...he was kind of balled up.”
Bergdahl was weeping uncontrollably. The podcast reports that Raffa and others who knew Bergdahl were surprised when they realized he was the soldier captured by the Taliban. Raffa said simply, “He should not have gone to another branch.”
How Bergdahl wound up there may amount to math, more than anything else. In 2008, when he enlisted, the Army was trying to maintain recruiting goals as the country’s interest waned in two wars that were dragging on. Bergdahl was among the 20 percent of potential recruits to whom the Army granted waivers so they could join. He walked away from his post in Afghanistan the very next year.
Then-Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl interviewed Bergdahl for the Army’s formal investigation and said the recruit had joined the Coast Guard for adventure and to save lives.
“He became overwhelmed and then found himself in the hospital,” Dahl said. “He wasn’t ready for it.”
Bergdahl had similarly heroic goals when he enlisted in the Army.
“I wanted to be World War II soldier,” he told Boal, the filmmaker. “I wanted to be, you know, 1800s soldier. You know, I wanted to be a samurai soldier, a fighter, warrior.”
Instead, he wound up at a remote outpost of dubious strategic value, while his mind turned inward and against his command.
He wasn’t ready for it, and the military should have known.
©2017 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.
It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.
Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.
No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.
Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.
"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.
Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.
"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.