Army knew Bergdahl had deserted, but forced soldiers who knew truth to sign nondisclosure agreements

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, will soon face sentencing, bringing him and the Army one step closer to legally resolving the chain of events that started when Sergeant Bergdahl walked away from his unit in Afghanistan in 2009. He was captured and held as a hostage for five years; six soldiers died looking for him, according to some accounts.

Sergeant Bergdahl?s case has faced politicization from both sides of the aisle. Those speaking the loudest publicly about it have overlooked the consequences that his actions had on the unit he abandoned.

Sergeant Bergdahl was assigned to the storied 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, which traces its history to the liberation of France during World War II. Soldiers in this unit are proud to be part of the 1-Geronimo? battalion.

I began my career as a military officer at Fort Meade and served as the public affairs officer for Sergeant Bergdahl?s unit before returning to Maryland to attend graduate school this year. I worked and spoke candidly for six years with soldiers who were deployed with the unit when Sergeant Bergdahl disappeared, and I have read the initial investigation.

The most basic tenet of my job as the unit spokesman was to be knowledgeable on all critical facts pertaining to the brigade. The Bergdahl story was the biggest annual recurring news event reflecting one of our soldiers. Yet, it took months for me to convince a leader to brief me on the facts associated with it. In the days following Sergeant Bergdahl?s desertion, soldiers with knowledge of the facts were forced to sign nondisclosure agreements. The truth about Sergeant Bergdahl was suppressed at the cost of their peace of mind.

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