It’s safe to say that the Bergdahl trade, brokered by the CIA, has been a PR disaster for the White House, and the media frenzy is in full swing with no end in sight.

Susan Rice’s statement about Bergdahl serving with honor and distinction triggered an outcry from many in his former unit who see his unauthorized absence, what is known in the military as being “UA”, as anything but honorable. And while their statements paint a picture of desertion, it remains unclear if Bergdahl violated Article 86 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and did in fact desert his unit.

What nobody is talking about, and what is factually correct, is that Bergdahl did go AWOL and is guilty of this under the UCMJ. He was not where he was supposed to be, period.

Unauthorized Absence (UA) or Absence Without Leave (AWOL)

Article 86

Any member of the armed forces who, without authority:

(1) fails to go to his appointed place of duty at the time prescribed;

(2) goes from that place; or

(3) absents himself or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty at which he is required to be at the time prescribed; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

In Navy speak, Bergdahl “missed muster” and was not where he should have been. The consequences of this action alone triggered a series of events that contributed to the deaths of soldiers in his unit and in other units who contributed to the search efforts. The daylight exchange also put all US forces involved at risk; Special Operations warriors prefer to operate at night with the advantage of thermal and infrared technology at their disposal.