Guest Blogger, Raven-Wolf: Bergdahl, How pride and arrogance kept us from getting him back

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Bouhammer Note- I have known of this complete story for five years. However I could not come public with it or ask my sources to even allow me to take it public. One of my sources who goes by the nickname Raven-Wolf, who was and is very connected and was on the ground at the time Bergdahl went missing shared this information with me in great detail in the last 24 hours. Not that Bergdahl is safely in US possession, Raven-Wolf felt it was time to let people know the truth. What you read in this post is completely first-hand and factual.
I am glad for his family that Bergdahl is home, however I am disappointed in the actions of his father recently (I will write about this more later). I am sure they love their son very much and am glad to have him back safe. However this young man made very bad decisions, and must be held accountable for them, in my opinion.
There is a lot on the internet right now from many other first-hand accounts by people that were in his unit. Now you can read a little behind the scenes about how we could have gotten him back within days, if not weeks, had it not been for arrogance and pride.
For a complete listing of postings on this blog about Bergdahl, check out http://www.bouhammer.com//?s=bergdahl

It was June 2009. I was working off the grid in and around South-Eastern Afghanistan. I had built a very effective Afghan network: local elders, merchants, NDS commanders, Afghan Army CI, etc. Word came down that a soldier from the 501st INF had gone AWOL. The name of the soldier was quickly known: Bowe Bergdahl.

Within hours of the reported “DUSTWUN” (Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown) the RC-East Commander initiated a total gag order, preventing any Army unit or Embedded Training Team (ETT) / Police Mentor Team (PMT) team from sharing intelligence with the Afghans. His order was based on his command’s stated belief that the Afghans were complicit in the taking of Bergdahl. The actual motivations came out later in private meetings behind closed doors: he wanted to protect his chances for promotion to O-7 (One Star General).

The Commander’s order didn’t affect me, and I frankly had little care for being involved in the search for someone as obviously stupid as this kid. My feelings, bluntly, were that Darwin’s laws should be let to play out and the Taliban’s desires to turn young boys into sex puppets was this kids earned destiny.

Almost immediately the rumor mill was in full swing. I returned to my Area of Operations (AO) and stayed to my own business. Nothing was flying or moving unless it was part of the search. So I took some days to read, catch up on emails and listen to the chatter in the mess hall as I sucked down my cups of bad coffee and powdered creamer. Mid-way through the second week I ran into one of the PMT mentors. He was furious about having to deal with the gag order; rightfully describing how the lack of sharing was undermining his teams relationship and trust with the Afghan Police units they were mentoring. His frustration got to me; it pissed me off to be more to the point. I knew this kid Bergdahl could be found. Not through the might of every US military asset in Eastern Afghanistan, but through tribal connections and traditional ways of doing business in Afghanistan…something Regular Army commanders never understood. I left the encounter with the PMT mentor, returned to my AO and walked into my Colonel’s office.

“I will make you a bet I can locate this kid in a week.” He looked at me and said nothing. He knew how I worked and I walked out.

I began by walking into the office of an Afghan Intelligence Officer I knew. He greeted me as always; welcomed me in and offered me Chai. We had not seen each other for well over a month. We shared stories, we discussed insurgent tactics, new TTPs, his family, my travels. Then I asked him the question I had come for, “Colonel…where’s our boy?” He looked at me and just stared back. Then he said, “You don’t want to know.”

I was taken aback and frankly irritated. I had had enough of the games over this kid’s search. “What do you mean I don’t want to know! We are friends; we have been friends a long time. Your answer is not good enough.” The Colonel then went on to explain to me how he had offered his support to find Bergdahl. However, the American Army mentors told him they weren’t interested; that they had everything under control.

I reminded him I wasn’t them and that I could frankly give a shit what his Army mentors were or were not interested in. “Help me find him. You and I both know this cannot be done without Afghan intelligence. You and I know that regardless of how stupid this kid is, he needs to be brought home.”

He sat down at his desk and made a call as he scribbled a few notes on a piece of white paper. He then got up from his desk, walked across the room and sat down in front of a dusty computer at the back. A few keystrokes later, he added a few more notes to the paper, walked over towards me and handed me what he had written.

“These are the names of the villages and GPS coordinates where your boy was the past three nights.”

I thanked him and took the information back to my Colonel. I told him what was on the paper. He took it with a bit of suspicion, but stated that he would be sending it up to the Special Operations Task Force 373. Later that night he called me into his office.

“I don’t know where you are getting your information but keep in coming. They like what you have.”

Over the next few days I expanded my information gathering to include NDS, Afghan CI, and locals. The Afghans continued to provide details on location, how Bergdahl was traveling, what he was wearing, and his state of mind. The picture continued to grow and the picture was one of a kid that had willingly left his post, deserted his brothers and his commitment to the US Army and our country. Bergdahl was described as dressed in local dress. He was riding around on the back of motorcycles hugging his Afghan captors. He was not in chains or in handcuffs, but willingly moving about to avoid detection. He needed to be retrieved…not to save him, but to punish him for his betrayal.

The details around Bergdahl’s decision to walk off of his FOB (Forward Operating Base) to explore the wilds of Afghanistan were locked down almost immediately. Even journalists were restricted from access; being denied interviews, field movement or access to anyone with any knowledge of Bergdahl or of his unit. Keeping the lid on the story was the number one command objective. But I dug and I found details. Though I still have this part of the story listed as “unconfirmed” this is what I put together:

Bergdahl was unstable the minute he arrived in country. He was unhappy, disconnected from the unit, and dissatisfied with the way his unit had dealt with several incidents. He had illusions of grandeur, talking about getting back to nature. He also had a romanticized ideal of himself as some sort of one man Rambo as well as a love affair with the Afghan indigenous fighter (aka Taliban). Rumors of what happened ranged from his unit running over a child to Bergdahl slowly coming unglued. He had all of the signs of being high risk. There was never any one story that was consistently told about the cause and effect. Both his unit and his command were protective and defensive… obvious signs of hiding something. What was more than clear is that Bergdahl, his unit and his command were a train wreck. As for Bergdahl specifically, his background should have been an early warning that something, anything, could easily set him off. Raised by a Northwest family that would be best described as off the grid, liberal tofu eaters, Bergdahl was homeschooled and raised to be a kind and sensitive child. He learned ballet, and enjoyed long walks in nature. He was almost a modern day young Emerson. When he turned of age he apparently felt he needed some adventure so he talked to a recruiter and fell in love with the “be all you can be” dream and joined the Army. Airborne was now his new meditation mantra and walks in the woods were replaced with forced marches and an 80-pound rucksack. To what should not have been a surprise to anyone, he did not work in well with his unit. Maybe it was the ballet, maybe it was his sensitive nature now imprisoned by his sworn duty to kill the bastards who celebrated the deaths of over 3000 Americans killed on 9-11. Whatever his reasons, when the moment arrived that he decided he was no longer interested in his obligation, his “free spirit”spoke as he grabbed his sketchbook and some water and walked off of the FOB. He was AWOL. Nothing more to it than that.

At the end of my seventh day or so of working this problem, I returned to the office of the Afghan Intelligence Colonel. Over another round of Chai and information exchange, I pressed him to leverage his network to set up a meet with the tribe that was holding Bergdahl. By this time the profile of Bergdahl’s captors was becoming clear. Where Bergdahl played out a version of a spoiled brat’s “walk about”, his captors saw opportunity. They had grievances with the local Governor. They wanted to use Bergdahl to get what they thought they deserved. This was the Afghan way.

During this time the rumors and reports from the US side were that Berdahl had been taken by Haqqani. That was not the case. His captors had sent out word to the Haqqani network asking for a reward, however the initial interest from Haqqani was cool to tepid at best. Their concern was that Bergdahl was mentally unstable; and even though Bergdahl had voluntarily converted to Islam, the Haqqani network was not willing to bring a mentally unstable Muslim convert over the border into Pakistan. We should have paid attention to Haqqani.

I sat with the Afghan Colonel and we went over the tape that had been released of Bergdahl. We watched it a half dozen times. Other Afghan intelligence types entered the room. They dissected the images…the weave on the bread that was shown in the video was only available in one particular village; the sound of the generators demonstrated a level of wealth; the pattern on the rugs provided insight into the owner and their taste; the food and the way it was served provided understanding of tribal habits and behaviors; the interviewer, his English intonation and his camera skills could only be of a select few people; and Bergdahl himself provided a wealth of clues from his dress, to his mannerisms, to his compliant attitude. The Colonel made some notes. The Afghan cadre discussed what they had seen. He felt sure he knew what village Bergdhal was in.

“I want to meet with the tribal leader who is holding him. Just me and my interpreter. I will travel in my own vehicle. No military. No guns. You can join me if you wish,” I told him.

The Colonel called a friend in Parliament. The discussion was brief. He hung up the phone and we waited. A few minutes later the phone rang; it was his Parliament friend again. The tribal leader had agreed to the meet. The location would be set the next day. The Afghan Colonel and I agreed to travel together. We parted, each of us setting about preparing our kit for the next morning.

The media blast that followed the Bergdahl video was what the RC-East Commander had hoped to avoid. The story was now out. Bergdahl who had been effectively a blip on the radar up to that point became an international star overnight. The elevation of status made him more valuable and Haqqani understood this. The following morning as I walked to the vehicle to meet up with the Afghan Colonel, he greeted me, still wearing his military dress. I knew something was off. He informed me that the meeting had been cancelled. Overnight Haqqani had dispatched a team with an undisclosed amount of cash and had taken control of Bergdahl. From that point forward the chances of getting him back were all but lost.

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Over the next few years I made the occasional probes through my Afghan contacts about Bergdahl. The responses were always the same…he was with Haqqani. Some reports had him living happily in Haqqani’s large compound in Pakistan. Other reports told of him missing his family and regretting his decision to go AWOL. He was regularly reported being seen in the markets near the Haqqani compound, usually shopping on his own without restraints or guards.

Within many circles Bergdahl became more like an urban legend. Under GEN McChrystal a group was stood up called the Counter-insurgency Assessment Advisement Team, or CAAT for short. Early on there was one notable idiot by the name of Sean. A former 7th Special Forces Group guy, he and his tag-along buddy Tim promised to retrieve Bergdahl and bring fame and recognition to the CAAT. Naturally their grand plan never materialized. Bergdahl remained safely in the arms of Haqqani.

Near the end of GEN Petraeus’time I came across the Personnel Recovery group working to find Bergdahl. Outside of several highly covert units still tasked with finding the kid, this private contracted team was all that was left. We shared information, I reviewed their plans, and what was clear is that there wasn’t a plan. Bergdahl was Haqqani’s property until Haqqani decided otherwise. For me the issue was simple, Bergdahl wasn’t worth it.

This last year I sent out another query on Bergdahl. The response this time was similar, but a few things had changed. Unlike past queries, the information that came back was that the Haqqani group was tiring of Bergdahl. They were becoming concerned that they would be left holding him and not accomplish their goals of retrieving their brothers from US holding. The word was they were willing to negotiate. In true Pashtun fashion, however, they added a threat of killing Bergdahl if their demands weren’t met. My Afghan contacts told me they could make the meet happen. I passed. The risk to get this kid wasn’t worth it and by this time the United States government was well on its way to giving in to Haqqani to save face and win a few political points with the liberal mass of military haters back home.

The latest news of 5 GITMO detainee transfers for this kid’s life left me nauseated. From everything I was receiving, Haqqani never expected to get any of the prisoners, let alone 5 of some of the most highly valued targets we had in holding. The US negotiators had fallen for the bluff…the threat of killing the kid. No one ever asked the question of why Haqqani would kill Bergdahl suddenly now after keeping him alive for so many years. A typical political knee jerk reaction to a problem rooted in thousands of years of traditions and ways of doing deals. We got screwed and I suspect Haqqani is laughing his ass off at us from his compound in Pakistan.

The deal that has been made is a slap in the face to every American soldier alive and dead that has served this country with honor. Bowe Bergdahl is a traitor. He willingly left his post and his fellow soldiers to go on a spiritual stroll in Afghanistan, convert to Islam and ultimately join up with the Taliban…and in so doing cost us the lives of great soldiers who were tasked with finding him…just run the body count of how many died searching for him in 2009. Bergdahl wasn’t captured as the Army and media spin-doctors would want you to believe. He betrayed his country and should pay the price of incarceration at the least and death by hanging at the best.

May he burn in Hell.

Reported by RW

Geronimos go Down Under

I am a former Geronimo and very proud of my service there and the unit. I spent four years in the 1/501st and got to jump into all sorts of cool and not so cool places. I am glad to see the Battalion keeping up the standard by showing their capabilities and might by quickly deploying and jumping into anwhere around the Pacific Theater. 

H/T to www.blackfive.net for turning me onto this clip. 

Video Tribute to LT Brian Bradshaw

I have blogged about LT Brian Bradshaw many times on this blog. My readers have written in guests posts and the comments on the blogs about him have been more than I have ever received on any other posting.

I am so honored and flattered to have had this blog visited by dozens of Brian’s family and friends, to include his own parents.

The video below was produced by CBS and I think it is a great testament to not only Brian’s life but also how this country has become so misguided in its priorities.

NOTE-You may want a tissue handy before watching this.

A Day To Remember – watch more videos

Thank you to www.greatamericans.com for hosting this video.

Missing Soldier Update with video of PFC Bowe Bergdahl

As all who have been following this blog or following me on twitter know, I have been following this missing soldier issue ever sine it has happened. I have had multiple sources in and outside of Afghanistan feeding me info that I have pretty much been keeping to myself out of respect for the soldier’s safety, OPSEC, and the family.

A week or so ago my fried PJ Tobia put up a blog story about this soldier which told how it is referred in country by the soldiers as Operation Where’s Waldo. Of course that is not the official name of the operation looking for this soldier, but it is what all the troops on the ground have been calling it.

Within a day of putting up my posting which pointed to PJ’s, I took it down. In hindsight and after much consideration I decided to not spread the word on this yet. There was something in me that knew many, many family members of deployed service-members read this blog and I didn’t want my blog to be the conduit of more pain in this family’s life.

However now that the video is out and it is very clear that the soldier is not under any duress, stress, strain, etc. I think it is safe to call it like it is. I have said from the onset that this was a very fishy case and it did not add up.

After seeing the video, I feel even more so now. The rumors of desertion and walking off his base voluntarily have been out there for the last 10 days. The video speaks volumes if you know what to look for and I don’t mean having to be trained to read body language, etc. It is common sense.

He has no marks, no visible wounds, he is eating well (not scarfing it down), he is talking in a calm demeanor and overall looks very stress free. He is even sporting one nice looking Taliban haircut and beard. The Taliban and most in the rural areas of the mid-east shave with straight-razors. They don’t have Gillette and Schick out in the middle of nowhere. This kid’s head has been neatly shaved with a straight-razor yet he has no cuts, or scrapes. Even a twitch or a shake of the head would guarantee a slice of the scalp somewhere. So what that tells me is he was calm and still as they shaved his head. Just something to think about.

I know exactly the area he went missing and I know the base he went missing from very well. I, along with many others I am sure, are trying to figure out how he ended up getting off the base and nobody seeing this soldier with apparently no tactical gear walking in the open. I am sure there are a lot of questions being asked of his chain of command. Regardless of how this turns out for this soldier, I think there are many leaders in his unit who’s careers are over. I hope not (unless they are guilty of negligence). I think one must also look at the mental state of this soldier and evaluate if he ever showed signs that would cause those that know him to think he would be capable of this.

He came in the Army just one year ago. He enlisted in June of 2008, went to basic training, AIT, and airborne school before being assigned to the Geronimos of the 1/501st ABN. We now know he was home-schooled, and was very active in the ballet and in fencing. Not exactly the type of person that wants to excel and be part of a high-speed Airborne Infantry Unit, if you ask me. Could it be his fellow soldiers knew of his past and harassed him? Could they have made him feel like an outsider? Who knows, and really it does not matter as what he did (if desertion as PJ implies) is inexcusable. I am confident that as the past comes to light we will see this soldier demonstrated behavior that would be considered outside the norm.

I saw an AP report that stated this soldier lagged behind on a patrol and it implied he was kidnapped that way. But the same article said he was not noticed missing until a formation the next day. I can tell you that story is complete BS. No leader of any kind takes his unit on dismounted patrol and then comes back into the base without knowing he has everyone. Afghanistan is not the type of environment where everyone walks “Ranger File” or “Ducks in a Row” and you lose someone because they are walking slow. Were not talking about triple canopy jungle here, we are talking about desert. Regardless, that story is completely false and shame on the Associated Press for even thinking about printing it, much less actually printing it.

Overall this is a sad case for all except the enemy. This is a huge IO (Information Operations) campaign for them and they will come out smelling like a rose to those they can influence.

This is sad for the soldier, sad for his unit and the chain of command (who’s careers are probably over), sad for all the soldiers in Afghanistan who are working non-stop night and day looking for him and not doing their regular missions, sad for Afghanistan whom should be using the American assistance to get ready for the national elections one month from today. I can guarantee that in this area of Pakitika, Ghazni, and Paktia provinces they aren’t focusing on election preparation and probably are focusing on nothing but finding this soldier. It is also very sad for the Afghan and US family members of soldiers who have been killed or wounded as a result of the exhaustive and extensive searching that has been going on.

Most importantly it is sad for his family, who is probably getting no sleep or rest ever since they found out it was him missing back on June 30th (when they were first notified). If he did break ranks or if he does go to the other side it will even be more painful for them.  They will suffer forever because of this. Unless our military is able to rescue him, I doubt he will ever be released alive. The Taliban will use him for everything they can to sway Afghan and US public opinion.

As a parent of a combat vet myself, I cannot imagine the heartbreak or anxiety they feel. I am very sorry for them if the indications and allegations are true. With all that said, I will close this posting for now. Stay tuned here to Bouhammer.com as I will post updates as they become public knowledge.

The link to PJ’s article is here, http://trueslant.com/pjtobia/2009/07/20/source-bergdahl-deserted/

The entire 28 minutes of video (and not just the parts that the MSM wants you to see) is below.

Fox News now covering what Bouhammer already did

I first talked about this story of Lt. Brian Bradshaw on June 27th here, www.bouhammer.com/2009/06/someone-more-important-than-michael-jackson-died/ and again here two days later, www.bouhammer.com/2009/06/great-words-from-1lt-brian-bradshaw/.

Now it is the lead story on FoxNews.com this morning, www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,530361,00.html

I am glad that this story and that outrageous behavior of the media is being highlighted.

 

H/T to jw for tip.

Someone More Important than Michael Jackson Died

Yes I agree that MJ was a great dancer, singer, songwriter, and artist in general. I grew up on his music and would have loved to see him in concert when I was a kid. But that was then and this is now. I have lot of his music on my iPod and still enjoy it today, but he was a weird dude that did some weird stuff and I am not sure what all he was guilty of in life and it is not my place to judge. I think he got any judgment coming to him on Thursday evening as he stood at the pearly gates. I do know that I would never ask him to babysit.

So yes it is a loss for the music world that he died on Thursday, but you know someone a lot more important to me than him died Thursday. His name was Brian Bradshaw from Steilacoom, Washington. And I have never even met Brian Bradshaw or would recognize him had I saw him. Have you ever heard of Brian? Have you heard millions scream his name? Have you seen people and media flocking to his house?

No, you probably haven’t. Even though Brian was contributing a ton more to this country than Michael ever did, but will never be known like Michael. You know why? Because 1LT Brian N. Bradshaw was a soldier, an Airborne Soldier who gave his life serving this country and defending it. An American Airborne Soldier who was in Afghanistan, unselfishly trying to give the people of Afghanistan the freedom to live without oppression. So to me, Brian Bradshaw is a real Hero, a real Role-Model and someone who was real and in touch with reality.

Brian Bradshaw, along with the thousands of other Great Americans who have sacrificed their lives for our country deserve the millions of people screaming their names too. But will never get it, and will never ask for it. Because they are serving this country out of personal motivation, not for fame and certainly not for fortune.

So to Brian Bradshaw this is my tribute to you. This is my wreath of flowers at your Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, this is me holding up a picture of you in Times Square with tears streaming down my face. You and all like you who have come home draped in the American Flag are and always will be more important to me than Michael Jackson.

God Speed Geronimo….Airborne, All the WAY!

2009390470

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No. 460-09
June 26, 2009


DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

1st Lt. Brian N. Bradshaw, 24, of Steilacoom, Wash., died June 25 in Kheyl, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska.

For more information the media may contact the U.S. Army, Alaska, public affairs office at (907) 384-1542.