The release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Afghanistan over the weekend has generated a lot of controversy. Many are questioning President Obama’s decision to negotiate with terrorists and exchange four prisoners for Bergdahl. Other soldiers are claiming that Bergdahl was a deserter whose selfish actions cost others their lives. In order to help shed some light on the subject, Glenn was joined SPC Josh Fuller, who served with Bergdahl in Alaska and was close with people who knew him during his service in Afghanistan. Fuller tells the story of a man who was a bit of an oddball, a soldier who left his post and whose actions put the lives of others at risk.
Glenn: I want to go now to the soldier that I talked to on the radio this morning. He’s not the only one that is questioning the motives for Sergeant Bergdahl’s release. Joshua Fuller, he met and served with Sergeant Bergdahl while the two trained in Alaska.
So how did you know him at all?
SPC Fuller: We were both in the same brigade back in Alaska. I was stationed in the 509th, and he was stationed in the 501st, and so we were both stationed in Alaska together.
Glenn: Okay, and then you went to Afghanistan together, but you were close but not –
SPC Fuller: Yes, sir. So we were in two sister battalions, two airborne sister battalions, and he was stationed at an outpost a couple clicks away from where I was at. And I was stationed at another one.
Glenn: And one of your best friends was his roommate or bunk mate?
SPC Fuller: Bunk mate, yes, sir.
Glenn: So tell me what you saw and what your friend saw on what he said.
SPC Fuller: When we were back at Rear D back in Garrison, he seemed a little oddballish and would say stuff like, you know, like what you were talking about earlier, about America was a superpower and shouldn’t be, and we’re trying to bully around the world and stuff like that, just oddball comments like that. I didn’t think too much of it until whenever this stuff happened over there, whenever he ended up leaving and deserting the post.
Glenn: So is it normal? I mean, you didn’t think much of that. Is that normal to hear people say things like that?
SPC Fuller: Yes, we’ve got quite a few oddball people. It actually happens quite a bit, but usually like when we’re in war, we’re pretty short staffed, so you can take what you can get. And so a lot of people have, you know, said stuff before. We’ve taken the bolts out of people’s M-4s before because they started to get a little crazy, and then a week or two later we think they’re okay, so we give them their bolt back to put back in their gun.
SPC Fuller: You get what you can.
Glenn: Okay, so when he left, and he walked out by himself, there are people that say that he asked if he could take his night vision goggles with him, which no, you can’t.
SPC Fuller: Right.
Glenn: The enemy would pay a lot for night vision.
SPC Fuller: Right.
Glenn: Any reason he was out, he left? I mean, can you think of any reason why he left his post?
SPC Fuller: I just don’t think he cared for America anymore. I think his agenda was to help those people, just like what his father was stating about wanting to help the Afghans a little bit more.
Glenn: Okay, help me out on this because I heard his dad. And I want to give his dad the benefit of the doubt. I mean, you went over to protect America, but also you don’t have anything against the Afghanis.
SPC Fuller: Not at all.
SPC Fuller: They were very cool to me.
Glenn: Right, you want to help them too. Why do you interpret what dad said as anti-American?
SPC Fuller: I don’t know, it seemed a little strange. It seemed a little strange to me.
Glenn: Now, he leaves the base, and you guys have to go out and try to find him.
SPC Fuller: Yes, sir.
Glenn: What happened there?
SPC Fuller: When he had left the base, the next day there was already people going out to search for him, different platoons from different companies out of different battalions. They were already going on this thing called dust off, so when somebody either gets captured or goes missing, we start sending out patrols. Helicopters will go out and look for them.
Our platoon was going to be the next one to go out, and that was on July 3. And our bird got scratched to go look for him. Luckily it did, because the next day our outpost was almost overrun by the Taliban on July 4, so luckily we didn’t go. So I didn’t get to go on that mission to go look for him because we were getting overrun.
Glenn: And you say that the Taliban had information that they shouldn’t have had, that you think that he gave them.
SPC Fuller: Yes. To that point, whenever he had left the base, right after he had left, we started getting hit in spots that we didn’t normally get hit in because we’ve got a thing called POO sites, which are point of origin sites, and so we’ll know at some points where we get attacked from so we stay away from those areas. The areas that we trained with to go on certain areas, we started getting attacked on those areas. IEDs were placed strategically on the routes of trucks where we knew we would be going to hit those certain spots, stuff that the Taliban shouldn’t know about. Ambushes, we were getting hit from.
Glenn: Okay, so playing devil’s advocate again, what makes you think that he wasn’t tortured and gave all that information up through torture?
SPC Fuller: He could have, absolutely. He could have went over there with his best intentions, thinking that hey, I’m here to help you, and the Taliban said, you know, yes you will, and they still could have tortured him for that stuff.
Glenn: What’s your gut say? I mean, you drove in. I talked to you this morning. We asked you, “Can you come to the studios?” And you got here right away. And when I first saw you before we went on the air, you said a lot of us are, this has been eating you alive.
SPC Fuller: We got told from a higher up that was in charge of the brigade not to talk about it, but we didn’t –
Glenn: Back then?
SPC Fuller: Yes, sir. In OEF 9 through 10 or Operation Enduring Freedom 9 through 10, we were told to keep it on the quiet, on the DL, and from that point on, they were telling his family that he was a POW, telling the media he was a POW, and that was not the case.
Glenn: How does it make you feel, the president just…I’m not a soldier obviously, but I know enough, and I know people like Marcus Luttrell who have actually been held. And there’s no way Marcus Luttrell would want the president to negotiate for five really bad guys.
SPC Fuller: I wouldn’t allow it, even if it was myself, no way.
Glenn: Thanks a lot, Josh.
SPC Fuller: Yes, sir.
Glenn: Appreciate it. Thank you.