Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s sentence has been endorsed and upheld by Gen. Robert B. “Abe” Abrams, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). As sentenced last November, Sgt. Bergdahl will be demoted to the rank of Private (PV1), or an E-1. He will be required to forfeit $1,000 a month for 10 months, and he will be dishonorably discharged. The sentencing was initially handed down by Col. Jeffery R. Nance, the military court judge, and had to be reviewed by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA).
Sgt. Bergdahl had plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The desertion charge is actually less severe than misbehavior before the enemy, which can carry a maximum penalty of death (though most would have realized that Sgt. Bergdahl realistically would not have met this fate). When it comes to desertion, it has only warranted the death penalty once in U.S. history — Pvt. Eddie Slovik in Jan. of 1945.
Sgt. Bergdahl’s entire case has been mired in controversy since the beginning:
He willfully walked off his base in Afghanistan, which triggered search and rescue parties in hostile areas that would have not otherwise occurred. Many were put in harm’s way in the search for Sgt. Bergdahl, and the price to attempt to find him was steep.
Eventually, he was traded for prisoners that were being held in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The prisoners were five Taliban commanders, including a former Taliban interior minister, a senior commander, a provincial governor in Taliban controlled areas, a Taliban deputy chief of intelligence, and another prominent Taliban leader. They were all apprehended in 2001 or 2002, so how effectively they would integrate back into Taliban command (if they could at all) was not apparent. However, the primary concern was in negotiating with the Taliban in the first place, and the implications that could have on future engagements.
Five years after he walked off the FOB, Sgt. Bergdahl was returned to U.S. soil. In the ensuing years, the military courts would determine his fate. Another point of controversy occurred when President Donald Trump alluded to comments he had made when he was running for office, when he called Sgt. Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” and that he would toss him out of a plane in order to “give him back.” While some might argue that President Trump was just sharing his opinions on the matter, Col. Nance saw it as his boss (in a military sense) expressing a desire for a certain outcome. This fell under the “unlawful command influence,” and the case was extended in order for Col. Nance to feel like he could give a fair trial independent of opinions held by those above him in the chain of command. Of course, these delays were controversial in an already controversial case.
Finally, the sentence was passed and Sgt. Bergdahl received his fate — no prison time, and certainly not the 14 years behind bars that the prosecutors has pursued. This fate, the dishonorable discharge, pay forfeiture and demotion has now been approved and sealed by Gen. Abrams.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.