Dempsey: Army may still pursue desertion charges

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 3, 2014 at 7:54 am •  Published: June 3, 2014
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BRUSSELS (AP) — The Army may still pursue an investigation that could lead to desertion or other charges against Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed from five years of Taliban captivity in a prisoner exchange last weekend, 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.

Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. Army special forces Saturday in exchange for the release of five detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention facility.

Service members who are missing in action routinely continue to be promoted on the same schedule as their peers. But, Dempsey said, "his status has now changed, and therefore the requirements for promotion are more consistent with normal duty status." As a result, he said, other things needed for promotion, such as proper levels of education and job performance, would now apply. That makes Bergdahl's promotion less automatic.

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