Bowe Bergdahl, the controversial Army Sergeant who was a Taliban Haqqani Network prisoner of war (POW) in Afghanistan for some five years has been cleared to return to active duty just six weeks after being returned to the United States. Bergdahl will return to duty at the U.S. Army North at Joint Base in San Antonio (JBSA) Texas; a merged base that includes the U.S. Army Fort Sam Houston, Randolph Air Force Base and Lackland Air Force base. While military officials have deemed Bergdahl mentally and physically fit to return to active duty, there are concerns among the populace and some military analysts about his rapid return to service, especially given the circumstances of his 2009 disappearance and because he has been given the freedom to leave the base unsupervised.
Bergdahl has been undergoing transition counseling at San Antonio Military Medical Center to reintegrate him back into Army life after his years as a POW. By some reports, he will integrate back into “regular” Army life in an administrative position and will be living in the barracks with the other soldiers. In addition, he will have two soldiers personally assigned to him to assist in his adjustment.
Army Major General Kenneth Dahl is investigating the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance in 2009 when he allegedly walked away from his military outpost to protest American activity in Afghanistan. Many of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers have accused him of deliberate desertion of his post and if it is determined by Army officials that Bergdahl is indeed a “deserter” he could be court martialed and dishonorably discharged. Further, the families of the soldiers who died while conducting search and rescue attempts for Bergdahl are none too pleased to hear that he has been returned to active duty.
Many question Bergdahl’s mental fitness, not just as he returns from his status of POW but even before the circumstances that led to his capture by the Taliban. In 2012, it was reported in an in-depth Rolling Stone Magazine article on Bergdahl and his family that he had exchanged emails with his father indicating that he was “ashamed to even be an American” calling the country a horror of “self-righteous arrogance” and the country “revolting.” These emails occurred just days before Bergdahl left his outpost and seemingly wandered into a Taliban camp. It would appear that Bergdahl’s wandering might not have been as random of a choice as it might seem. At one point, Bergdahl reportedly told a fellow soldier during basic training that if the deployment to Afghanistan was “lame” he was simply going to “walk off into the mountains of Pakistan.”
The concerns about whether Bergdahl should be returned to active duty involve not just the ongoing investigation into whether he is indeed a deserter or the distress caused by the possibility that the lives of soldiers lost searching for him were given for a lost cause. Many are concerned about his allegiance to the United States and if he is mentally stable enough to serve in the Army. Further, there are questions being raised as to whether or not he is a safe person to have on base and comparisons are being made to Nidal Malik Hasan. Hasan, a U.S. military psychiatrist shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood and injured 30 others in 2009. Hasan had made similar expressions of abject disdain about America before going on his killing rampage – a rampage heralded by his yelling of “Allahu Akbar” just before his assault.
The Washington Post reported in June of this year that Bergdahl had been discharged in 2006 from the Coast Guard for “psychological reasons” and the news organization referenced journal entries of Bergdahl’s that indicate a rather bizarre state of mind. According to The Washington Post, the journal entries “paint a portrait of a deeply complicated and fragile young man who was by his own account struggling to maintain his mental stability from the start of basic training until the moment he walked off his post in eastern Afghanistan in 2009.” Evidence such as the bizarre journal entries combined with the statements made by Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers and the circumstances of Bergdahl’s 2009 disappearance all lend credence to the concerns that he may not be mentally fit for active duty.
Opinion By Alana Marie Burke