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Military Connection: Bergdahl’s Charges, Hearing Set

bergdahl-active-dutyBy Debbie Gregory.

The drama of the Bowe Bergdahl saga continues, as an Article 32 hearing is scheduled for July 8, 2015. An Article 32 hearing is the equivalent of a preliminary hearing under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the laws that govern the behaviors and actions of the U.S. military.

Many civilians don’t realize that when service members enlist in the military, they are essentially surrendering many of their personal rights as citizens. They are also subjecting themselves to a different, often stricter, set of rules under the UCMJ. Because of the importance and severity of their duties, service members are not able to challenge or shrug off the responsibilities of their occupation as easily as civilians can in their workplaces. All branches of the U.S. military are subject to criminal law governed by the articles of the UCMJ.

Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is famous for disappearing from his observation post on June 30, 2009, in the Paktika province of Afghanistan. Bergdahl was kidnapped by the Taliban, and held captive for five years. His release was secured through the exchange of five Taliban leaders being held at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.

In June, 2014, the Army ordered an investigation of Bergdahl’s disappearance and the actions that led to his captivity, as well as his behavior while he was held by the Taliban. The investigation was headed by Major General Kenneth Dahl. In December, the results of Dahl’s investigation were then sent to General Mark Milley at U.S. Forces Command.

In March, 2015, the Army announced that Gen. Milley had made the determination to charge Bergdahl with two counts, for abandoning his post and endangering the lives of other service members. The first charge is under Article 85 of the UCMJ for “Desertion,” with “the intent to shirk important service and avoid hazardous duty.” The second charge is under Article 99 of the UCMJ for “Misbehavior before the enemy.”

If Bergdahl is found guilty of either charge he could face jail time. The Article 85 charge carries a punishment of up to five years in prison, a dishonorable discharge, a reduction in rank to E-1, and loss of pay and allowances. The Article 99 is more severe, and could include punishment up to life in prison.

Historically, the Article 99 charge has been used to shame, disgrace or otherwise humiliate personnel who committed actions that go against the values and training of the military. Historical punishments for Article 99 offenses have included publicly ripping rank insignia from the guilty individual’s uniform, or requiring them to display some written message (often using words such as “coward”) describing their disgraceful behavior before their command.

An Article 99 charge is considered outdated by many familiar with military law. Not since the Vietnam War era have high-profile cases involving charges under Article 99 been used. Most notable was in 1968, when Navy Commander Lloyd Bucher was charged with violation of the article after he surrendered the U.S.S. Pueblo to the North Korean Navy.

Bergdahl’s Article 32 hearing will be held at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, and will determine if his case should proceed to a court martial.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Bergdahl’s Charges, Hearing Set: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Bergdahl Charged with Desertion

Bergdahl

By Debbie Gregory.

On March 25, 2015 it was announced that Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl would be charged for his role in his capture by the Taliban.

Bowe Bergdahl was reported missing from his unit in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. He was captured by the Taliban and held for five years by the Haqqani Network, a militia group loyal to the Taliban. His highly publicized release on May 31, 2014, was secured by exchanging Bergdahl’s freedom for five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, known to be top Taliban players before their capture.

During the entirety of his capture, the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance from his post were fiercely debated within the military community and throughout the mainstream media. But testimony from other soldiers in his unit, as well as his own words found in correspondence to his family, indicated that Bergdahl deserted his post.

Shortly after Bergdahl’s release, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey said this about Bergdahl’s future: “The U.S. Army will not ignore any misconduct by released Taliban detainee Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, but he should be considered innocent until proven guilty.” He went on to say, “Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.”

On June 16, 2014, the Army began conducting an investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance. In December, 2014, the Army referred Bergdahl’s case to General Mark Milley, Commander of U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM).

General Milley had a variety of legal options to choose from in the case, including the option to drop any and all charges of misconduct against Sgt. Bergdahl. But with the findings of the investigation, which have not been made public, Gen. Milley saw fit to charge Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. If found guilty, Bergdahl could face a punishment of up to life in prison.

But it is widely speculated that due to his time spent in captivity, Bergdahl sentence would be little-to-no prison time, if he is found guilty. However, Bergdahl would forfeit any of his Veteran benefits and the back-pay that he would have been due for May 2009 through May 2014.

A general consensus around the military community is that Bergdahl’s actions put other service members’ lives at risk. This point is underlined in the fact that during the initial search for Bergdahl, six soldiers lost their lives. For that reason alone, many service members and Veterans want to see justice served.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Bergdahl Charged with Desertion: By Debbie Gregory