One of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s senior officers will lead the Army’s investigation into Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s June 2009 disappearance from a combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said today.
Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, deputy commander of JBLM’s I Corps, will be charged with answering questions about the circumstances that led to Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban five years ago.
Since Berghdahl’s release by the Taliban on May 31 in exchange for five prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, veterans from his unit have accused him of endangering their safety by walking out of Combat Outpost Mest-Lalak in Paktika Province on his own volition.
Some are calling for his prosecution for the charge of desertion under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
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Bergdahl in Taliban-released videos has said he was taken prisoner after he lagged behind on a patrol.
A classified 2010 Army investigation reportedly concluded that was not the case. Documents obtained by The New York Times and Military Times say Berghdahl walked away from his post.
“The truth is: Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down,” wrote Nathan Bradley Bethea, a veteran from Bergdahl’s unit, in a June 2 essay for The Daily Beast.
The Pentagon news release announcing Dahl’s appointment does not say why he was chosen for the job. It notes his two deployments as a senior officer in Afghanistan.
JBLM’s I Corps is in the chain of command over Bergdahl’s former unit, the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
The 25th Infantry Division with units in Alaska and Hawaii falls under JBLM’s I Corps.
Should Berghdahl face a court-martial, JBLM would be a logical place in the Army to host a trial.
It is the closest major military installation to Bergdahl’s hometown in Idaho.
Also, the Army recently chose JBLM as the site to host a court-martial for another Alaska-based soldier, Staff Sgt. Michael Barbera. Barbera is facing murder charges tied to a 2007 incident in which he allegedly shot two unarmed Iraqi teenagers during a reconnaissance mission with a North Carolina-based unit.
Dahl graduated from West Point in 1982. He served in Iraq as a brigade commander in 2005-06 and in Afghanistan as deputy commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division in 2010. He last served in Afghanistan in 2012-13 as the deputy commanding general for support of U.S. Forces. Dahl arrived at the JBLM command a year ago.
Bergdahl on Friday arrived in the U.S. after receiving medical care at a military hospital in Germany for two weeks. Bergdahl now is at the San Antonio Medical Facility at Fort Sam Houston.
It is not clear when Dahl will interview Bergdahl. The Army said its “top priority remains Sgt. Bergdahl’s health and reintegration.” Dahl will not interview Bergdahl until after the soldier is considered healthy enough for that discussion, the Army said.