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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 6:20 am | Fair 39º


Ron Fink: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a Deserter Who Has Earned a Court-Martial

From the first day of military service, recruits are taught that you must report for duty on time and remain on duty until properly relieved. Leaving your post before being relieved is a serious breach of military discipline and all members are made keenly aware of the following requirements of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) during basic military training.

A deserter, as defined by the UCMJ, Article 85 is a person who “(1) without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently; or, (2) quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service.”

The punishment for such a crime is “(c) Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.”

When I was in basic training, our instructor informed us that leaving for less than 30 days or reporting late to duty was considered Absent Without Leave (AWOL) and any longer than that was desertion. He also said that if you left anything behind, say a pair of socks, it could mean that you intended to return.

By accounts attributed to his team leader and members of his unit, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (he was promoted while away from his unit and not a result of any demonstrated ability to either perform his duties or any leadership skills) left his post while deployed to a forward base in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009.

They also said that Bergdahl shipped all of his personal stuff home before he left.

The Obama administration had several options to gain his return — one was to send out teams to find and liberate him from captivity. Several did, including his teammates, in the days and months following his departure. His teammates said “the entire mission changed when Bergdahl left, our entire focus was to find him.” Some of the folks sent out on these search missions were killed in combat and/or injured while the search was under way.

Finally, last May, President Barack Obama made a choice — he would release five very high-level prisoners from detention at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba if the Taliban would release our deserter. Following the release, surrounded by Bergdahl’s parents, team Obama made a spectacle of the event with a statement fit for a returning hero in the White House Rose Garden.

Of course, Bergdahl hasn’t spoken to his parents since his return, and Obama hasn’t even acknowledged the sacrifices of those who searched for him.

This decision was very controversial. First, the value of those released was far higher than the value of one low level misfit; second, it was viewed as only furthering a political goal to close the detention facility; and third, because it aided and abetted the enemy in the time of war, which UCMJ, Article 104 describes as “aids, or attempts to aid, the enemy with arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things.” In this case the “other things” were their seasoned field commanders.

Some in the liberal media are floating the idea that Bergdahl has “suffered enough” while in captivity — certainly he wasn’t treated kindly by his captors, but if he had not walked away from his unit and sought out the enemy he wouldn’t have subjected himself to the conditions he endured. The liberal media theory in this case is that he ought to be honorably discharged from the army, provided all of his back pay and receive all of the benefits provided to members who have honorably served.

To this I say BS! Try to sell this idea to the men and women who preceded him in all the wars our politicians have sent us to; tell this to the men and women who have been seriously wounded and dismembered while performing their duties; tell this to the men and women who currently serve and see what reaction you get; tell this to the families that lost soldiers who were searching for this coward.

Today, all members of the military are volunteers. It hasn’t always been that way, but even when men were conscripted they served honorably until their time was completed — those who didn’t were provided with court-martial punishment as described in the UCMJ.

This guy should get the same treatment as any other deserter.

As for Commander in Chief Obama, what a way to raise the morale of the troops — honor a deserter and help the enemy in time of war.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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