Dempsey: Army ‘Will Not Look Away’ From Bergdahl Allegations

With some calling for Bergdahl’s head, Joint Chief Chairman Martin Dempsey issues a statement to calm the mob.

ARLINGTON, VA - FEBRUARY 24: U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey answers questions during a press conference at the Pentagon February 24, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia. Hagel and Dempsey spoke about the upcoming Defense Department budget requests during the press conference. A proposal released February 24, plans to shrink the U.S. Army to pre-World War II levels.
National Journal
Kevin Baron, Defense One
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Kevin Baron, Defense One
June 3, 2014, 9:33 a.m.

Joint Chiefs Chair­man Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey pledged that the Army “will not look away from mis­con­duct” in the case of Sgt. Bowe Ber­g­dahl, while de­fend­ing the United States’ ef­fort to re­cov­er the sol­dier “from en­emy cap­tiv­ity.”

De­mp­sey’s state­ment is the strongest in­dic­a­tion from any mil­it­ary or Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial that Ber­g­dahl may face pun­it­ive ac­tion by the mil­it­ary for al­legedly walk­ing off his east­ern Afgh­anistan base in 2009, lead­ing to his cap­ture by the Taliban.

With more and more troops and pub­lic voices led by con­ser­vat­ive polit­ic­al lead­ers call­ing Ber­g­dahl a desert­er who sub­sequently cost Amer­ic­an lives — and ques­tion­ing the value of trad­ing his life for five al­leged Taliban lead­ers held at Guantanamo Bay for 12 years — Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers of Con­gress quickly vowed to hold in­vest­ig­at­ive hear­ings in­to the mat­ter. De­mp­sey, the na­tion’s top mil­it­ary of­ficer, is­sued a sternly worded an­swer to those crit­ics on his Face­book page on Tues­day.

“In re­sponse to those of you in­ter­ested in my per­son­al judg­ments about the re­cov­ery of SGT Bowe Ber­g­dahl, the ques­tions about this par­tic­u­lar sol­dier’s con­duct are sep­ar­ate from our ef­fort to re­cov­er ANY U.S. ser­vice mem­ber in en­emy cap­tiv­ity. This was likely the last, best op­por­tun­ity to free him,” De­mp­sey wrote.

“As for the cir­cum­stances of his cap­ture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts. Like any Amer­ic­an, he is in­no­cent un­til proven guilty. Our Army’s lead­ers will not look away from mis­con­duct if it oc­curred. In the mean­time, we will con­tin­ue to care for him and his fam­ily. Fi­nally, I want to thank those who for al­most five years worked to find him, pre­pared to res­cue him, and ul­ti­mately put them­selves at risk to re­cov­er him.”

Later Tues­day, De­mp­sey told the As­so­ci­ated Press that Ber­g­dahl no longer was set to re­ceive an­oth­er auto­mat­ic pro­mo­tion be­cause he was no longer con­sidered miss­ing. “His status has now changed, and there­fore the re­quire­ments for pro­mo­tion are more con­sist­ent with nor­mal duty status,” De­mp­sey said. Ber­g­dahl has re­ceived two pro­mo­tions since 2009 to the rank of ser­geant, fol­low­ing a nor­mal timeline as is cus­tom­ary for those con­sidered miss­ing.

De­mp­sey’s re­marks, while prom­ising to look in­to mis­con­duct, are the latest by mil­it­ary and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials who have tried to sep­ar­ate the al­leged reas­ons Ber­g­dahl may been cap­tured and the U.S. mil­it­ary’s duty to care for all of its ser­vice mem­bers, in­clud­ing the re­spons­ib­il­ity to find and re­cov­er any miss­ing or pris­on­ers of war.

Speak­ing in Warsaw, Po­land, on Tues­day morn­ing, Obama again de­fen­ded the de­cision to res­cue Ber­g­dahl. “Re­gard­less of the cir­cum­stances, whatever those cir­cum­stances may turn out to be, we still get an Amer­ic­an sol­dier back if he’s held in cap­tiv­ity. Peri­od. Full stop. We don’t con­di­tion that,” he said.

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