Speaking publicly for the first time, Bowe Bergdhal says, “I was trying to be a stellar soldier”

In this Aug. 2014 file photo provided by Eugene R. Fidell, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl prepares to be interviewed by Army investigators. U.S. officials have finished an investigation into how and why Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (boh BURG'-dahl) disappeared from his base in Afghanistan. Bergdahl was held captive for five years by the Taliban. (AP Photo/Eugene R. Fidell, File)

The world is finally hearing Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s side of the story– thanks to an award-winning podcast — which could shed some light on the soldier’s case.

Academy Award-winning screenwriter Mark Boal recorded 25 hours of research for a movie he plans to make about Bergdahl’s experience. Bergdahl agreed to let “Serial” use the material for their second season. The podcast, which earned a Peabody award, has been downloaded more than 100 million times.

In 2009, when Bergdahl left his remote, Afghanistan army post in the middle of the night, it sparked a massive manhunt which military officials said endangered troops.  “I’m going, ‘Good grief, I’m in over my head,’ ” Sergant Bergdahl said. “Suddenly, it really starts to sink in that I really did something bad,” he continued. “Or, not bad, but I really did something serious.”

The Army Sgt. spent five years in captivity under the Taliban. His ordeal ended in 2014, when the Obama administration swapped him for five GITMO Taliban detainees —  a deal that’s been called “reckless” by Republican leaders.

Senator John McCain has said that  Bergdahl is “clearly a deserter.” However, there’s been much debate since Bergdahl ‘s release, over whether he is really a traitor or just a “confused soldier.”

Army prosecutors initially accused him of desertion and endangering troops who searched for him –a potential life sentence.  But at a preliminary hearing in Sept., Army investigator, Lt. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, testified that prison time would be “inappropriate” and that Sgt. Bergdahl was “truthful and sincere” — but also delusional.

Bergdahl said in the interviews with Boal that he was trying to be a “stellar soldier.”

“I was trying to prove to myself, I was trying to prove to the world, to anybody who used to know me, that I was capable of being that person,” he said.  In some sense, he added, he wanted to be like the movie character Jason Bourne.

Sergeant Bergdahl said about his departure from the base that “He wanted to create a crisis in order to get an audience with high-level commanders, so he could describe what he saw as leadership problems that could endanger troops.” His initial plan was to walk 18 miles to a larger base, to raise concerns about problems in his unit.

Producers of the Serial podcast did not say whether they had General Dahl’s report, which the Army refuses to release.

Boal said this is a chance for Bergdahl to tell his side of the story over multiple episodes –the opposite of the hit-n-run style of reporting, which the Sgt. apparently is not a fan of.  Serial’s executive producer tells the NY Times that the season would be “eight to 10-ish” installments. She also added that future episodes would be about more than just Sgt. Bergdahl.  They would also shed light on unanswered questions like whether his Taliban captors “quickly spirited him over the border into the Pakistani frontier, where they had a haven.”

Sergeant Bergdahl is awaiting a ruling on whether his case will go before a court-martial.

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Author

  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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