Photos purportedly show frantic, dangerous search for Bergdahl in 2009
Newly obtained photographs purportedly depict the frantic search for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in the initial days after he disappeared from his post in eastern Afghanistan.
The images were provided to Fox 5 DC by a soldier from Bergdahl's Blackfoot Company who was at the base the day he disappeared. The soldier, like several others who have spoken to the media since the Obama administration announced Bergdahl had been freed in exchange for five Taliban leaders, claimed Bergdahl had deserted. The images purportedly show the lengths to which his fellow soldiers went to find him.
"These guys were all convinced Bergdahl deserted them, but they put their lives at risk to find him," the soldier said. The soldier spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is still in the military and worried about "reprisals" for breaking a non-disclosure agreement. All the soldiers who were part of the Bergdahl's search were told to sign the documents when they returned to the U.S.
One of the photographs, according to the source, shows platoon members searching for Bergdahl several days after he went missing, after getting what was described as a strong lead that they would find Bergdahl in a specific tent "in the middle of nowhere."
As their Chinook helicopter descended, they took fire.
"They were shooting at the birds as we were coming in -- as we came off the helicopters, they were shooting at us," the soldier said.
The ensuing battle ended when this soldier and others used a grenade to kill what turned out to be a high-level Taliban leader.
They didn't find Bergdahl inside the tent, but uncovered a large cache of ammunition.
The soldier is angry and frustrated that the Defense Department has silenced him and his fellow soldiers all these years. Some have said soldiers died in the hunt for Bergdahl, though military leaders have not confirmed that.
"Bowe Bergdahl walked off the base leaving members of the second platoon pretty much defenseless," the soldier said. "I think he needs to go and face a UCMJ -- a Uniform Code of Military Justice Court. I think he needs to present the facts as he sees them, and then allow other folks to present facts as they see them."
As for the circumstances of Bergdahl's disappearance from Outpost Mest, the soldier provided a picture he said should end speculation that Bergdahl was kidnapped while going to the latrine.
The men used an oil barrel (shown on fire in the provided image) as a latrine, in the middle of their camp.
He also pointed out that no one in such a dangerous location would walk around without body armor and a helmet -- much less his rifle, as Bergdahl allegedly did. He said that finding those items left behind is proof "of somebody not being snatched in the dead of the night against their will."
This combat-seasoned soldier added that, "Americans deserve to know the truth."
Top military officials have urged patience in getting to the bottom of what happened in 2009.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said in a statement that his health is the top priority.
"At the appropriate time, we will conduct a thorough, transparent and complete review of the circumstances surrounding his capture," he said in a statement.
Emily Miller is the chief investigative reporter for Fox 5 DC. She is the author of Emily Gets Her Gun (Regnery/2013).