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Bergdahl arraigned on desertion charge

Posted December 22, 2015

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— Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl made his first appearance before a military judge Tuesday morning at Fort Bragg to face charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Bergdahl, 29, of Hailey, Idaho, disappeared in Afghanistan in 2009 after walking away from his post, and he was held by the Taliban for five years. He was released last year in exchange for five detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

A member of the 82nd Airborne Division's 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, he said recently that he walked off his Afghanistan base to bring attention to what he saw as a failure of leadership in his unit and to prove his bravery.

Six soldiers died searching for Bergdahl following his disappearance.

At a short hearing Tuesday, Bergdahl deferred entering a plea and also put off choosing whether his court-martial will be handled by a panel of officers, a panel of enlisted soldiers or by military judge Col. Jeffrey Nance.

Wearing an Army dress uniform with a dark blue jacket and pants and closely cropped hair, he mostly sat still in his chair and answered "yes" and "no" to questions about whether he understood his rights and the court proceedings.

He walked with his head down as he left the courtroom and didn't speak to reporters waiting in the rain outside the courthouse on Fort Bragg.

Several former POWs are following the case, such as Raymond Schrump, who was held as a prisoner in Vietnam.

"I believe in our judicial system, and for that reason, I supported Bergdahl while he was a prisoner of war," Schrump said, adding that he disagreed with the prisoner swap to gain Bergdahl's freedom.

"We just don't negotiate for our prisoners of war, and if there is an exchange, it's at the end of the war," he said.

Schrump said his support turned to anger after Bergdahl's release.

"When he came home and he was charged, it changed everything," he said. "I'm waiting now for the outcome of that, and if he is guilty, I hope he gets the maximum."

The next hearing in the court-martial is scheduled for Jan. 12, but it remains unclear where the actual trial will be held. Bergdahl's civilian attorney has indicated that he may want the trial held elsewhere, fearing Bergdahl can't receive a fair trial at Fort Bragg.

If convicted, Bergdahl could get life in prison on the misbehavior charge and up to five years for desertion.

6 Comments

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  • Paul Maxwell Dec 23, 2015
    user avatar

    A: He deserted his post, period. Unless the UCMJ has been revised, desertion is both treason and punishable by execution. The military requires, and he deserves, a court martial. Bring him home.
    B: Consider his family--wanting their government to get their son back at any cost. Who wouldn't?
    C: Our military is 100% volunteer, for which we should all be grateful each and every day. The six who died searching for him were doing their sworn duty and knew the risks beforehand. But yes, Bergdahl should have trouble looking himself in the eye.
    D: This is not about Obama. POTUS has knowledge, resources, and powers that allow him to make the decisions that may seem wrong but are deemed necessary. Only POTUS has all the facts. And why try to involve a Congress which then (and now) blocks his every initiative?
    E: If anyone must bear ultimate blame, it is Bush, Cheney, et.al.--the oil industry puppets who started us on this highway into Middle East hell in the first place.

  • Nan Toppin Dec 23, 2015
    user avatar

    this whole fiasco will go down as an epic fail of the Obama administration and NO ONE but Obama can take responsibility because he CHOSE not to involve Congress in his decision or even to inform them.

  • Tom Boswell Dec 22, 2015
    user avatar

    Obama said if he had a son that he would look just like Bowe Bergdahl.

  • LetsBeFair Dec 22, 2015

    WAL ... all I want for Christmas is for you to put Obama's picture with Bergdahl were he is warmly welcoming him back after training those dangerous prisoners. And put that underneath the desertion charge headlines. ho ho ho ... now we're spending millions in taxpayer money dealing with this.

  • Chad Stinner Dec 22, 2015
    user avatar

    While there there is a tremendous amount of incompetence in the military that doesn't warrant walking away from your post. The difficulty here is what he should be tried for and what his experience being held captive by the taliban for long would account for. Finally being freed only to discover six people died searching for you... I can't imagine that weight.

  • LetsBeFair Dec 22, 2015

    Yet not one word how he ended up back here? You think that little tid-bit would be important? Obama could put his Darwin award next to his Nobel Peace Prize for this one.