Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl plead guilty to charges of desertion with the intent to shirk hazardous or important duty and misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place in a Fort Bragg court, Monday. Together, the charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, demotion to E-1, dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
In 2009, Bergdahl walked off his post in Afghanistan and was later captured by the Taliban and held for five years. During Monday’s hearing, he confirmed he intentionally left Operation Post Mast, where he was assigned at the time as part of Task Force Yukon.
When asked by Col. Jeffery A. Nance, the military judge presiding in the case, whether leaving was a freely made decision, Bergdahl responded in the affirmative.
“Yes sir.”
Bergdahl explained that he intended to hike to Forward Operating Base Sharana to report what he considered “critical problems with senior command.”
When asked by Nance whether he believed these concerns were more important than reporting for his assigned guard duty shift and convoy assignment, Bergdahl said the factors he saw at the time convinced him of the report’s significance.
Now, he said he understands there were better ways to share his concerns.
“At the time I … didn’t understand the routes that were there,” Bergdahl explained, later describing his actions as “inexcusable.”
After his capture by the Taliban, search and rescue teams of service members went looking for Bergdahl, something he said he didn’t expect.
“I didn’t think they’d go looking for one private,” he said. “I didn’t think they’d be pulled off a critical mission to just look for one guy.”
The Soldier said he tried to return to duty, attempting to escape his captors “a dozen to 15” times.
During his most successful attempt, Bergdahl was on his own for eight days, during which time he said he looked for military drones that he knew to be around the region. He was eventually recaptured before his release in 2014.
Sentencing hearings will begin Monday at Fort Bragg. There was no plea agreement with prosecutors, so Bergdahl is eligible for the maximum sentence.