Although it is just a start, Serial 2’s first episode reveals a lot about Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance from his platoon. There seems to be more to the story, obviously, but the episode answers the most important question: why did Bowe leave the platoon?
To start, the OP Mest picture from The Guardian looks tight, small, and dirty. It is in the middle of nowhere, so it must have been easy to spot. Anyone walking around or leaving the platoon could easily be seen, even in the typical tan and army green that was intended to blend in with surroundings. It was in the middle of the desert, so conditions couldn’t have been well. One of the other soldiers even said that it wasn’t livable and that the quality of life was “low,” that men were getting sick because it was not a clean environment by any means. The platoon looks as if it would be extremely simple to invade and easy to destroy. In the video, people were walking by. Considering that they treated it as a checkpoint, it would be easy for anyone to invade and mishaps to happen. It seems to be fairly stereotypical of what a platoon would look like.
From what has been revealed thus far, Bergdahl left his platoon because he felt as though the leadership that was leading his team was a failure, that the leadership was bad. He felt that it was putting his fellow soldiers at risk, and he had to do something. It was the last day at the platoon, and it was his last chance to get higher officials’ attention: set off a DUSTWUN, a radio signal that goes to all armed forces when someone disappears or is captured. He didn’t know how to formally complain about a superior, and be believed, so he felt like carrying out an extreme action was his only option. This decision seems pretty understandable. Crazy things happen in war, and he did leave his post, but he thought to do it in order to call cause to a more serious issue—an issue in leadership. In a stressful situation, such as war, and not knowing how to formally fix the leadership before more lives were lost, Bergdahl did what he thought was best. He did what he thought, and knew, would get officials’ attention. Granted, taking matters into his own hands in a country he wasn’t familiar with was greatly idiotic, but, in a sense, it was a courageous move on his part.
In order to better understand and evaluate his decision, I would like to know what the leadership did that was so wrong. Why was it putting soldiers in danger? How was it putting Bergdahl and his fellow men in danger? It must have been pretty severe. In understanding his decision, I would also like to know why the Army didn’t tell their men how to formally make complaints, which is something that could have made this whole situation completely avoidable, if what Bergdahl is saying is accurate and his reasons are, in fact, valid.
After watching the 52 second fly over of the terrain, Bergdahl’s plan seems a bit of a stretch, but it is plausible. He was a fit man and used to high altitudes, but it was still a long walk, walking through villages where the people did not know him. Despite being in disguise, it would have been clear to the natives that he was an American soldier. He did have money to bribe the people for help, but even then, the people were probably also afraid of the Taliban, who surely wouldn’t be too thrilled if they found out that they were helping an American. Bergdahl didn’t know the language, either, which would create quite a barrier in asking for help from the locals on his long journey.
If it were me, I would not be able to make it over the terrain. It’s too far, too varying in landscape, and I would be completely alone, going to a place I’m not familiar with, for anywhere from 24-48 hours, if not longer. I’m not as healthy as Bergdahl probably was. According to other men, the OP Mest was disastrous and making soldiers ill; if that were the case, I’m sure I’d be one of the first ones to become sick and unable to do my job properly—much less trek through area I don’t know and cause such a ruckus.
Without a doubt, there’s so much more to know about Bergdahl and his journey. We have the why and the plan, but we don’t know exactly how far he made it in his plan and who he was helped by, if he was tipped off to the Taliban by a local. There are many things that have yet to be revealed, but the most important answer was given, and that’s an extremely good start.