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Should Bergdahl Receive $300K In Back Pay?

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By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army may end up paying Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl about $300,000 in back pay for the five years he was  a prisoner of the Taliban.

Bergdahl was initially listed as “Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown” by the Defense Department on June 30, 2009. However, his status was changed three days later to “Missing-Captured” following the release of a Taliban video showing Bergdahl alive. Bergdahl had walked off of his base, and was released in a prisoner swap in May of 2014.

He was charged and pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy resulting in a demotion from sergeant to private, a fine, and a dishonorable discharge.

Now, the Army is trying to figure out what, if anything, they owe Bergdahl.

Typically, servicemembers designated by the Defense Department as “captive, missing or missing in action” are entitled to receive back pay and allowances. Any additional pay and allowances earned such as promotions or special entitlements are not issued until they are officially recovered or classified as deceased. But this situation is unique because Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion.

In a Nov. 15 letter to Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, 100 lawmakers, led by former soldier Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AK) said that, while they are happy Bergdahl was returned, they remain concerned about the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and are urging the U.S. Army not to award Bowe Bergdahl any back pay.

“At the very least, we know Private Bergdahl’s actions, by his desertion admissions in court, jeopardized the lives of his comrades,” they wrote. “Despite being given a dishonorable discharge and demotion from sergeant to private, he remains eligible for significant back pay.”

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If Found Guilty, Bergdahl Could Face Life in Prison

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By Debbie Gregory.

As a result of his 2009 disappearance from his base in Afghanistan, it was announced that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face general court-martial, the highest level of trial in the military justice system.

Bergdahl, 29, is charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, and could receive a sentence of life in prison. While desertion can carry a death penalty, Army officials have said that will not occur in Bergdahl’s case. No American service member has been executed for desertion since World War II.

Lt. Col. Mark Visger, who oversaw a two-day hearing for Bergdahl’s case in September,
had recommended that Bergdahl get a lower form of judicial proceeding known as a special court-martial, which would have given a maximum penalty of 12 months of confinement.

Bergdahl’s return was secured through a prisoner swap in 2014, which resulted in the release of five Taliban officials from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Bergdahl broke his silence last week when he participated in a podcast on “Serial.” He said that within 20 minutes of leaving his base, he had second thoughts, and realized he would face a “hurricane of wrath” from commanding officers. Berghdahl hoped he could find some intelligence that would allow the Army to go easier on him, but got lost in the hills, and then he was captured by the Taliban.

“Doing what I did is me saying that I am like, I don’t know, Jason Bourne. I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world that I was the real thing,” Bergdahl said.

Jason Bourne is a fictional character who is an elite Top Secret Special Forces operative in a series of novels by Robert Ludlum.

Jon Thurman, a former enlisted specialist in Bergdahl’s infantry company, said that he wasn’t surprised by the Army going forward with a general court-martial. Thurman, who was interviewed for “Serial,” speculated that Bergdahl’s comments in the podcast could hurt his case.

“When that first episode aired, I mean, he sort of hung himself by saying that he walked off and was kinda thinking about doing his own Jason Bourne thing,” Thurman said. “The guilty verdict might come from just that.”

An arraignment hearing will be held at a later date at Fort Bragg, Army officials said. Bergdahl is assigned to Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, with a desk job.

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Bergdahl Faces Rare Charge: Military Connection

Bergdahl Faces Rare Charge

By Debbie Gregory.

In the Army’s case against Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier held prisoner for years by the Taliban after leaving his post in Afghanistan, military prosecutors have reached into a section of military law seldom used since World War II.

For months, there has been speculation if Bergdahl would be charged with desertion after the deal brokered by the U.S. to bring him home. He was — but he was also charged with misbehavior before the enemy, a rare offense that carries a potentially stiffer penalty.

Bergdahl could face a life sentence if convicted of the charge, which accuses him of endangering fellow soldiers when he “left without authority; and wrongfully caused search and recovery operations.”

Soldiers who served with Bergdahl have said that the search for the accused deserter endangered other troops and diverted resources from other units.

Cody Full, 28, Bergdahl’s former platoon mate, and Evan Buetow, 28, who was the sergeant and team leader of Bergdahl’s unit, welcomed the new charge levied against the accused deserter.

“You give an oath,” Full said. “You sign your name to serve your country no matter what you’re supposed to fill that oath.”

“The whole reason we came forward last year when they released Bowe, we knew he needed to answer for what he did,” added Buetow. “We knew he was not a hero… He had to answer for why he deserted, and that’s what happened.”

Bergdahl has also been accused of “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty,” a charge that carries a potential five-year sentence, noted the Army statement.

On September 17th, his case is scheduled to go to an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a grand jury, and would recommend whether the case goes to a court martial.

Five senior Taliban figures were exchanged for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

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