Controversy surrounds soldier released by Taliban - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Controversy surrounds soldier released by Taliban

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Jose Baggett - Former Soldier, from Chicago, who served in the same company in Afghanistan as Bowe Bergdahl. Jose Baggett - Former Soldier, from Chicago, who served in the same company in Afghanistan as Bowe Bergdahl.
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is not being welcomed by everyone, particularly by members of the unit he served with in Afghanistan before his capture by the Taliban.

“Him being labeled as a hero, and that he did something influential is what kind of shocked me a little bit. He didn't do anything except leave his guard post,” said former Army Private First Class Jose Baggett of Chicago.

Baggett served in Blackfoot Company with Bowe Bergdahl in 2009 when Bergdahl walked off his guard post in the middle of the night.

“I would describe him as someone who made a very, very, very bad mistake,” Baggett said.

He’s now joined a chorus of critics of the Bergdahl and those who want to make him out to be something he is not.

“He not only put himself in danger, but he put everybody else in danger so I'm not gonna call him a traitor because I don't know that he gave away military secrets, or anything like that,” Baggett said.

But many other are calling Bergdahl a traitor and a deserter on various Facebook pages. The military concluded that Bergdahl voluntarily left his guard post in the middle of the night, leaving behind his weapon and vest, taking a water bottle, a notepad and a compass.

Six other soldiers died on missions looking for Bergdahl, including 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews and PFC Matthew Martinek, both in Baggett's platoon. Baggett believes Bergdahl should be court marshaled for deserting his post.

“When you leave your guard post you have a field of fire that you're watching and you're in a big circle and everybody watching and you've got your guys sleeping, if you leave that guard post you leave that sector of fire open and somebody could have come and snuck in there and did whatever, we might not have known it,” Baggett said.

The US recently swapped five members of the Taliban to secure Bergdahl's safe return.

Bergdahl is still being treated at a military hospital in Germany.

“On one side, we got one of our soldiers back and we never leave a soldier behind and that's good we can show that. But on the other hand we just went five steps backwards giving back these five guys and who knows if that can come back and bite us in the ass later,” Baggett said.

Why Bergdahl left his post is not entirely clear. Baggett said what he heard at the time was that Bergdahl did not approve of the US mission in Afghanistan. Others in the unit portrayed Bergdahl as naïve and delusional, thinking he could help the Afghan people by leaving his post.

The Army may still pursue an investigation that could lead to desertion or other charges against Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday. Dempsey also told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his plane that Bergdahl's next promotion to staff sergeant, which was set to happen soon, is no longer automatic because Bergdahl isn't missing in action any longer.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the case, Dempsey said he does not want to prejudge the outcome of any investigation or say anything that might influence a commander's decision.

But he said U.S. military leaders "have been accused of looking away from misconduct, and it's premature" to assume they would do so in Bergdahl's case, despite the soldier's five years as a Taliban prisoner.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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