Why Was Bergdahl In The Army In The First Place?

Why Was Bergdahl In The Army In The First Place? - Fayetteville Observer Editorial

In two hours of unsworn testimony Monday, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl called walking off his remote outpost in Afghanistan “a horrible mistake.” He has already pleaded guilty to desertion and faces the prospect of life in prison during the sentencing phase of his court-martial, which continues on Fort Bragg. Bergdahl also testified about his brutal treatment while a prisoner for five years under the Taliban, which picked him up not long after he left his post.

Whatever Bergdahl’s fate, his trial may yet leave unanswered one of the more pressing questions in his story: Why did the Army take in the troubled recruit in the first place? He had washed out of the Coast Guard after only three weeks. To even a layperson, his background would not have seemed like one that made him ready to tackle the stress of places like Afghanistan or Iraq. That should have been even more apparent to the Army. As Time magazine asked, “If he couldn’t tend to the coasts, why’d the Army think he could handle the Taliban?”

The Coast Guard has an undeserved reputation as being easy duty. For certain, the training in its boot camp is not easy. The dramatic circumstances of Bergdahl’s failing to complete the training is not so much evidence that he could not handle an easy entry process, but that he was probably not a good candidate for military service, period. The Coast Guard classified his exit during training as an “uncharacterized discharge” — and importantly not a psychological discharge, which would have triggered a mental health evaluation if he tried to join another branch. It is unclear why the discharge was coded in that way, especially since a Coast Guard psychiatrist recommended an evaluation if Bergdahl tried to reenlist. The service diagnosed him with “adjustment disorder with depression.” …

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