Why Wasn't Bergdahl Removed From His Platoon?

During Operation’s Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I was a platoon sergeant in a well-known infantry division. I will attempt to explain here based upon my own unique experiences during those operations if Bowe Bergdahl’s chain of command could have or should have removed him from his platoon.

We had been alerted that we would be deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield. During the period that we were drawing equipment, getting our shots, and getting our paperwork in order to deploy, I received a newbie (replacement) in my platoon.  The newbie was recently graduated from the infantry school and had only been in the military for three or four months.

As I introduced myself and welcomed the newbie to my platoon he suddenly needed to speak to me. He told me that he had made a mistake joining the military and that he did not want to deploy overseas with the unit. Recognizing that the individual that I was speaking to was a human piece of excrement, I informed him that I did not want him to deploy overseas with my platoon. I wanted my platoon focused on the mission and not be distracted by this individual.

I immediately spoke to the unit First Sergeant who is the senior enlisted man in the unit. He told me to go speak with the battalion Command Sergeant Major, who is the senior enlisted man in the battalion. I informed the Sergeant Major of the situation and he told me that I would not take this individual overseas and that the individual would be discharged from the military.  In a short period of time and before we deployed overseas, this individual was out of the military.

I had another experience regarding one of my platoon members in Desert Shield. As Operation Desert Shield was ending and we prepared for Operation Desert Storm, we learned we would be in the initial assaults.  A member of my platoon decided to pull the race card and declared to his Squad Leader that "I ain’t fighting, no white man’s war." This individual had performed very well during our 5-months of Desert Shield.

The platoon member, who is black, made this comment to his black Squad Leader. The Squad Leader briefly discussed with me eliminating this individual from the planet once we made contact with the enemy, but we quickly dismissed this idea because we were concerned that his actions, or lack thereof, upon enemy contact would result in the death or maiming of another platoon member.  This troublesome individual was now considered a traitor to the platoon and treated as such.

I again went to the First Sergeant explaining the situation and we were able to leave this individual “in the rear with the gear.” He stayed at our Desert Shield base camp and guarded equipment and was discharged from the military upon return to the United States. I made sure that he did not receive any combat awards or honors that other platoon members had earned.

In both instances I was fortunate to have a chain of command that was supportive of my request to remove these individuals from my platoon.

Should Bergdahl have been removed from his platoon based upon his actions and conduct prior to his desertion? I don’t know since I wasn’t there, but I do know that any individual that I didn’t have confidence in I would have attempted to remove, sent to mental health for evaluation or I would have disarmed them.

To read about another United States military person defecting, read the case of Private White defecting to North Korea in August 1982.

Frank Underwood is the pen name of a former member of the United States military.