Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on Monday became emotional as he recalled the constant torture and beatings he endured for nearly five years as a prisoner of the Taliban.
Bergdahl, who gave unsworn testimony during his sentencing hearing on Fort Bragg, spoke for about two hours. He paused at one point to get a tissue and to compose himself before continuing his testimony.
Bergdahl walked off his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently captured and held by the Taliban for half a decade. He pleaded guilty Oct. 16 to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy and could serve life in prison. His sentencing hearing began last week on Fort Bragg.
In the military justice system, unsworn testimony can be offered only by victims or by those accused. It is not subject to cross examination.
In a prepared statement, Bergdahl said he was sorry and never intended for anyone to get hurt looking for him. He said walking away was a “horrible mistake.”
“I’m extremely relieved my platoon mates made it back,” he said, reading from his statement.
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20171030/bergdahl-says-walking-away-was-horrible-mistake
Soldiers and an Air Force intelligence officer recalled a chaotic July 2009 firefight where one soldier was shot in the head and another had his hand shattered after searching a village in Afghanistan for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Their testimony came during the sentencing hearing for Bergdahl, whose disappearance from his remote outpost in Afghanistan in 2009 triggered intense search and rescue operations. Bergdahl pleaded guilty last week to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy and could serve life in prison.
A military judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, will decide Bergdahl’s punishment. The sentencing hearing began this week on Fort Bragg.
All of the witnesses who testified Thursday described how they rapidly executed missions hoping to find Bergdahl. Two American soldiers suffered head and hand injuries on the mission on July 8, 2009.
Lawyers for Bergdahl have said the injuries that soldiers involved in the search received were caused by enemy insurgents.
A small group of Americans, working with Afghan partners, came under heavy enemy fire after they left a village to question elders on the whereabouts of Bergdahl. The unit, which had walked more than 10 kilometers the night before, was exhausted and nearly out of water.
Jonathan Morita, an infantryman recalled to deploy to Afghanistan after serving three years in the Army, was holding his M4 rifle when he was struck in the right hand by a dud rocket-propelled grenade. The strike was so powerful it broke the rifle into four pieces and split open several of his fingers. His thumb was dangling, he said.
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20171026/soldiers-describe-search-mission-that-left-comrades-injured
Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch, a former Navy SEAL, on Wednesday described the blasts from an AK-47 popping around him during a rescue mission for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
“I could hear shrapnel breaking over my head,” said Hatch, who was shot during the mission near the border of Pakistan. “I really thought I was dead.”
Hatch was the first of several witnesses to testify about intense, risky search missions that were conducted to find Bergdahl after he walked away from his remote outpost in 2009. A judge will decide whether Bergdahl spends the rest of his life in prison for desertion and endangering his comrades.
He pleaded guilty to those charges last week, and the sentencing hearing began Monday.
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20171025/judge-hears-about-rescue-missions
The military judge who will decide if Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will spend the rest of his life in prison told lawyers Monday that he will not be influenced by comments made by President Donald Trump.
Col. Jeffery Nance, who is overseeing Bergdahl’s court-martial, said he wasn’t aware of the president’s most recent comments related to the soldier until defense lawyers leveraged them to renew a request to dismiss the case. The court-martial moved into the sentencing phase last week after Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
“I don’t have any doubt that I can be fair and impartial,” Nance said during a pretrial hearing Monday morning on Fort Bragg.
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20171023/bergdahl-hearing-defense-says-presidents-comments-prevent-fair-trial
The sentencing hearing for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has already admitted his guilt on charges that he deserted and endangered his platoon mates in Afghanistan in 2009, continues at Fort Bragg this week.
The judge could order Bergdahl to life imprisonment.
Bergdahl pleaded guilty last week, two years after the court was presented thousands of classified documents and heard testimony from a four-star general of Forces Command and service members who were injured on missions to find Bergdahl. The defense tried numerous times to get the charges against Bergdahl dismissed based on what they called biased comments made by U.S. Sen. John McCain and President Donald Trump.
Last week, Trump breathed new life into the case when he commented on Bergdahl at a news conference at the White House, allowing defense lawyers to renew an old motion to dismiss based on Trump’s bias.
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20171022/bergdahl-could-face-life-in-prison-as-sentencing-hearing-continues
Sgt. First Class Jose Graulau navigated a Humvee through debris littering the streets of Puerto Rico.
There was a sense of familiarity in the damage and destruction, since he and other soldiers had spent the past month helping victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida. But, now in Puerto Rico to help Hurricane Maria survivors, the mission had become personal.
Graulau’s Humvee crept along the tree-laden streets until it reached his childhood home. He hopped out and began calling for his parents.
He didn’t stop to knock — he barged in, embracing his parents as they walked down the stairs after being awakened early.
“I was very grateful,” Graulau said Thursday from the island. “They mean the world to me. They’re the ones that raised me. I was grateful to come over here, to see them, help them and help the people of Puerto Rico.”
Graulau is part of a small team of soldiers from the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command who have been deployed to Puerto Rico to help hurricane survivors. The soldiers, who specialize in logistics and distribution management, arrived five days after Hurricane Maria struck.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20171012/bragg-soldier-as-long-as-they-need-me-i-will-be-here
The lead lawyer for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Friday that he would not confirm reports that Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years, would plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
“We have no comment,” said Eugene Fidell, a civilian lawyer representing Bergdahl in his court-martial at Fort Bragg.
The Associated Press, citing two individuals with knowledge of the case, reported that Bergdahl, 31, of Idaho, had decided to plead guilty rather than face trial.
Bergdahl’s court-martial is slated to begin later this month. A conviction could carry a life sentence for the soldier, who walked off his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently captured and held by the Taliban for half a decade.
Read the story here:
With one foot in front of the other, Yarmeliz Fisher tried her best to walk in a straight line.
Heel, toe, heel, toe.
But her vision was too blurred, and she teetered her into a clumsy zig zag.
“This is hard,” she said, laughing, as her husband and other soldiers in the 16th Military Police Brigade watched.
The field sobriety test kicked off the day for spouses of soldiers in the brigade as they learned about their husbands’ jobs. About 20 women participated in stations that included room-clearing, an impaired driving course, a field sobriety test, suspect apprehension and a working dog demonstration as part of Cross Pistols Day.
Read the story here:
Fifty-three years ago, a young Lynn Weaver walked into his new classroom at West High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, ready for lessons, but honestly more interested in the football field.
He and a dozen other black students were the first to integrate into the school.
“I got stomach cramps every morning just thinking about going to school,” Weaver said. “I stopped eating breakfast.”
The daring move led Weaver to second-guess his abilities. But the 14-year-old student who was constantly targeted by racist teachers and bullies would not only ace his classes, he also became one of the top Veterans Affairs surgeons.
Read the story here:
Fort Bragg will become home to the active-duty Army’s only conventional civil affairs battalion today.
The 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion, which has been stationed at Bragg since 2012, will become the last unit of its kind when the Fort Hood, Texas-based 85th Civil Affairs Brigade inactivates today.
The brigade will disband four of its battalions, which are spread across the United States. Only the 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion will remain from the unit. It will be realigned under the 16th Military Police Brigade.
Read the story here:
Behind the byline
Here's an inside look at how some of my favorite stories came together.
All Bergdahl Beyonce Civilian In The Barracks Ebola Enterprise Green Beret Hearing Humanitarian Mission Hurricane Relief Inactivation Iraq ISIS Mall Gunman Operation Toy Drop President Obama Profiles Public Records Realignment Short-notice Deployment Training Deaths Training Exercises VA Videos