Documents Give Full Account of Why Bergdahl Walked Off

'It was a self-sacrifice thing'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 17, 2016 1:38 AM CDT
Updated Mar 17, 2016 6:03 AM CDT
Bergdahl Explains Why He Walked Off Base
In this Jan. 12, 2016, photo, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrives for a pretrial hearing at Fort Bragg, NC.   (Ted Richardson)

Newly released documents provide the most complete account yet of why Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl says he left a post in Afghanistan in 2009: to draw attention to what he saw as bad decisions by officers above him. The documents include a transcript of an interview Bergdahl gave to a general in which he says he hoped to walk to a larger base in Afghanistan so he could have an audience with a top commander. (The broad strokes won't be news to those listening to this season's Serial podcast.) "It was a self-sacrifice thing," Bergdahl told Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl. Instead, he wound up in enemy captivity for years and now faces charges including desertion. The New York Times notes that the documents show the initial response from Army commanders tasked with determining his punishment when he was freed was "milder and more sympathetic" than the current position, leading his lawyers to suggest political pressure has come to bear on the case.

In the interview with Dahl, Bergdahl expressed misgivings about how he and other soldiers were sent to help retrieve a disabled armored vehicle before encountering explosives and enemy fire that turned a six-hour mission into one lasting several days. When they returned to base, an officer complained they were unshaven. He said he began to worry that a future bad order could get someone in his platoon killed. The documents also show that an Army Sanity Board Evaluation concluded that Bergdahl suffered from schizotypal personality disorder when he left the post, and they provide details on the psychological breakdown he suffered during Coast Guard basic training in 2006—he washed out, then later signed up for the Army. Attorneys for Bergdahl say they released the documents to counteract negative publicity. "The more Americans know about this case, the better," attorney Eugene Fidell tells the AP. (Bergdahl's lawyers want to talk to Donald Trump.)

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