DiscoverSerialS02 Episode 11: Present for Duty
S02 Episode 11: Present for Duty

S02 Episode 11: Present for Duty

Update: 2016-03-3129
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The Season Two finale: What is Bowe’s fault, and what isn’t?

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the Swan is a previously on cereal the older the E or two of them around out there handing out water color maps of Afghanistan all felt like why are we up here this is fucking bullshit he's in Pakistan the United States with honor and distinction and bravery was almost always as a traitor that's not something you can ever come back I haven't seen from you journalist a real dig into how the army came to that conclusion this issue at that door to ready because there's a there's shit and it's not going away anytime soon from This American Life and WB easy Chicago it's cereal one story told week by week I'm Sarah Kane and driving the go pick up on my dry cleaning must think that seven or whatever was like I can do it because Aaron had a couple conversations recently that I just wanna tell u bout one was with this guy Justin he e mailed us so imma call January two thousand and six like I'm part of the show and I called my sister now by Joan you're not going to believe that over Dustin him she's like Yeah boa going to do with this guy Coast Guard boot camp and he remembers the night bow broke down remember standing outside freezing February night in Cape May New Jersey while something strange happened inside remember seeing blood and broken glass in the bathroom and yellow caution tape Justin was seventeen at the time and there are some details he couldn't recall but he led me to another guy also from that boot camp class John Ross a John was an older recruit his twenty six he remembered Bodie like them that it was a nice guy one day a couple weeks then John says there was a fire drill they did that a lot these wee hours fire drills some commander would bang on the top of the garbage can and wake everybody up they all have to rush outside and muster up each person had a number and they called out in order zero one or two or three et-cetera It became clear there was a number missing also clear that number was John was at the edge of the group so his commander sends him in another guy back inside to find though we go running back and running into the head and there she was the bloody themselves pretty good and we're never sure exactly how he did but there was quite a bit of blood there was some blood on the wall and the ears but as the saying of the countertop area mom and us leaving from a stage there was blood on his hands to look like she had the camera smashed his face into the mare and he was holed up crying you is all about and it was one of those moments you run like oh shit like what it's like they just like that then too did you try to talk to him I didn't use a sweeping and houses and it was shocking but the right to those it if I know what happened I remember just panic rushing down next to him and I hate you what's going on or you can use a sweeping like Go away the This version is more alarming I heard previously from or from the Army investigation it's why just an e mailed us in the first place to say didn't look like a garden variety panic attack to him and it says it wasn't a military psychologist I talked to said you don't usually hospitalized someone much less eject them from the military based on a single panic attack so whatever was going on with Bo must of been more serious than that so Bo got sent home to John and Justin no big surprise there is a Coast Guard training was very demanding psychologically it was clear Bo couldn't hack it the big surprise came much later when Bo was rescued a friend of John's office called and said he believed that P O W it's both from boot camp John said it took him awhile to put it together but no years ago was with cash or Bozo bottom like who we are doing if you are like how he survived five years of the Taliban here like how the guy in list exactly yeah I didn't make any sense to me that just blew my mind away he was a really nice guy but he couldn't handle the Coast Guard and the sun is stressful there's a lot of things that happen in the Coast Guard I don't want to make it sound like it's a cakewalk but he should not have done to another branch began his investigation General Kenneth Dahl found the Army recruiter followed all the regulations when he signed boa also wrote that he thought those regulations are inadequate in those case that his Coast Guard separation should have been looked at more carefully than it was John spent eight years in the Coast Guard reserves Justin became a rescue swimmer like the Special Forces the Coast Guard guys who drop out of helicopters in the ocean presumably they both know a thing or two about the military mindset Justin had the same question as John why they let that guy and the army base that was based on what happened during because they're big and nodded off there is no known reason why they should ever let him know the the sometimes pose case is summed up like this what Bo did was wrong walking off his post was wrong but the army should have let him enlist in the first place plus five years' captivity five years the scales are balanced army messed up o messed up let's move on but that leaves out a reckoning a reckoning is with the military wants understandably a lot of people who served in Afghanistan and to their families if you don't consider the consequences of Bo's decision to walk off the mast it feels as if something important and painful has been papered over and that doesn't feel like justice and one accounting is our last episode this season and so I want to try to answer this now what exactly should we blame Bo for the what's his fall and what isn't and heavy a small charge against him the elephant in so many discussions about Bo and about the trade and about the military proceedings against him did any American soldiers die looking for some people very high up in the military world are saying yes people did I looking for Michael Flynn has the highest ranking person I've interviewed so far he's a retired lieutenant general is head of D I A the Defense Intelligence Agency back in two thousand nine when Bo went missing Flynn was in Afghanistan he was General Stanley McChrystal's director of intelligence Chris tilling has forgotten was commander of U S and coalition forces for all of Afghanistan so when just under a crystal is a big deal I explained to him that this was one of my outstanding questions about the story this very thing of like Will Wait did people do die during this search for Bergdahl as a you know yes to answer the answer is Sarah the answer is yes ok ok so if somebody to go find an American you know there's you know what we did the guy did a soldier walked down the road in an IED blew up and if the soldier was walking down that road in an area he would not have been had it not been for the search for Bergdahl in fact his mission their tactical mission was to conduct a patrol and and try to find intelligent or try to find any indications of where the be and in fact was blown up by the IED or others wounded that's a no brainer but I agree that does that does that those those are dots those are dots I was er dike I connect here's the problem now general friends no brainer I haven't found one like that when he said those are dots he connected us in thinking of any particular cases of soldiers who died just he was there he says he knows it to be true there been lots of media stories to cart of stories citing specific cases of soldiers who died because of the search usually they are six names all from Bo's Battalion the first to the five A first we know for sure there was a massive search for Bo he walked off Opie mast on June thirtieth two thousand and nine for the month of July people were sent out all over packed each province and beyond doing nothing but missions to find the dust one but rather miraculously no one died on those missions the six names of soldiers who died they were on missions that happened later seven to ten weeks after voters appeared and none of those missions a search and rescue mission we've looked into all these incidents there are four of them talk to soldiers who were there and to people higher up who plan and organize them official information on these missions is then we've seen Army investigations on only two of the four case as one of those is just a summary they were both redacted so we can tell what the precise mission orders and objectives were put in for the requests with the Army long ago on all these cases but haven't gotten anything back again the army itself hasn't formally investigated the question of whether people died looking for Bo that we know of but somehow this idea that people died looking for Bo to a lot of people it's not a question has traveled out of the Rome of the murky and has solidified into concrete information to the point where a clothing company me to fuck her doll t shirt with six stars underneath to represent quote the six honorable soldiers from the first of the five A first that lost their lives all because of Bergdahl and quote all why are some people so sure about all we did it come from are the The The on September fourth two thousand nine one of those six soldiers Erin Andrews was killed in a province in a village called Pulau rate Europea mast has a second lieutenant platoon leader his parents Andrea and Andy Andrews have been told by the army that Barron was killed in an RPG attack on a mission to arrest a high value target the Taliban when the attack happened he apparently pushed aside other It was awarded the Silver Star posthumously about five years later his parents are on a long drive to the hospital for and his cancer treatment when President his return and he says the way he remembers at the Rose Garden ceremony hadn't even finished before someone contacted them and get their talking points on Orkut call this guesses which no work fiction to break this story until the truth what really happened this phone call with someone in Barron's unit this is the first and sound are hearing that Barron was actually killed on a mission related to them they were on the phone she was on the phone literally from the time with Cameron tour yet in the attic for three hours later with NBC CBS is a charmer but the owner broker of record but the class started texting and sending messages on Facebook in Collin and telling me you know we're not going to stand by and let them say he is a hero her son in the other class were hero or not and stand for this that same day the six names were put out their on line by day three the story had anchored in the mainstream press to Sondra and Andy it was such a jolt that first call because after five years they'd come to accept the original army issue version of what happened Aaron that he'd been killed on a mission to arrest a Taliban why they weren't looking for someone else to blame they were doing okay with what they thought they knew you know with calla fit the story into our lives we had talked about it and now all of that was gone a whole new story to get Reese to a man now a lot more anger Sondra said they felt angry and blow for one thing and they feel they've been lied to by the Army Aidan's commander because no one had ever mentioned Bergdahl to them before which wolf issue to them like there was a cover up to a half weeks later at the Andrews is went to Washington D C to testify before congressional committee Andy Andrews told the committee at six different soldiers who served with their son told him and his wife that Barron was killed while searching for Bowe founder says at the very least though was a contributing factor in his death it may not have been directly but indirectly he was responsible wrong the the the so this story the six am the light of the voters in the press as I can tell it originated at the ground level from those with two nights while they didn't have documentation to back up what they were saying the Defense Department was in second in these claims these guys did have reasons they were just making it up the tape allow heard Erin Andrews died on September fourth was unclear what exactly that mission was about and I didn't understand what the connection to Bo was so I asked John Thurman to explain it to me because he was on the cologne mission and I also knew John was in the camp of soldiers who thought Bo was responsible for the people who died they said we're going out for up to ten ten days and that's basically all I remember but was examined but don't actually know that was definitely way above my pay grade we were going to be going to pull out and we're going to be looking around and going house to house we had quite a few attachments that had never seen before we had a female engagement team will set a combat camera team that was with us so I don't actually know this is actually a low level soldier doesn't know the overall mission what's communicated to him as pack for x many days and then before they go out each day they're briefed by their immediate leader in this case Tara Andrews tells them we're going to go to this location are going to knock on doors or hand out stuff for me with Afghan security forces whenever I've asked a lot of people not just John but Italian officers people doing Intel what was the purpose of the plow mission here's what I've gathered big picture the trip to Pulau was part of a larger roughly ten day operation to push into the Yaya Kel District U S forces have been pretty successful in other towns bit further north they're working up there with local leaders doing coin essentially making friends helping build local government and security but not so much in the eye a cow which is right near okie mast the villages around there had quite a bit of Taliban activity they were not friendly to U S forces and said the Battalion had planned this mission to try to push back in there that area was strategic it was between the Pakistan border and a main highway in Afghanistan that goes up to Kabul and all through the country the way the Battalion planned these larger operations they weren't just about one objective to try to accomplish a bunch of things at once all kinds of U S government agencies doing their stuff at the time State Department or the Department of Agriculture they might be assessing which Little great service to grow in whatever valley you may have them along on this Pulau mission John remembers a female engagement team that likely would've been had it up by social scientist his job was to help the U S military understand Afghan culture John doesn't remember looking for specific high value Taliban guy on that mission but other people I spoke to were there do remember that they infected detain someone zip tied his hands guarded him but then were told by higher ups to let him go which they did again I haven't seen the mission order or the after action report so I can't be sure but here's what John remembers from his vantage point in the driver's seat behind the wheel of an amorous her members they had a lot of trucks a day maybe seven record on in the village and John a goner waiting in traffic while the other guys went door to door about forty five minutes past John says so my gunner and I were sitting in the truck and we just we had this eerie feeling were talking about it you know over some cigarettes like this the Sounders and fear I didn't give us a good vibe and I remember a bunch of kids were congregating under this gigantic tree there and then they all started to filter back into their houses and am i gonna actually been in Iraq on the deployment prior to ours and he said You know I had a bad feeling we're about to get fucked up because in the town clears out usually means that the Taliban's in the stands something up to bring the civilians back in so that they don't get hurt but the word out we're going to attack the Americans today so we radio up and everybody knows what's going on they all get ready to leave and then someone comes out from behind a wall and shoot an RPG at one of their trucks issue back then in aerospace I was struck three and I just see the first truck just explode not the whole thing obviously but I see the mine roller in the hood separate from the vehicle and they had rolled over pressure plate IED and from then on was RPG volleys it was small arms fire recoil less rifles mortars everything because once they took out that first truck we were stuck because you're all behind that track correct and that's that's a technique that the Taliban had sort of adapted when the Soviets had invaded is you know take out the first truck shoot up the last truck and then everybody in the middle is completely fucked Erin Andrews had been in John's truck the third track John says Dan ran out to the first track wanna just gotten blown up to help the guys there they set up what's called a casualty collection point Littlefield trauma area and then so many RPG started coming in John says he watched Erin Andrews get killed he watch met Martina John's good friend who'd also been in his truck that hit that would die in hospital in week later John in the gutter or inside the truck during the ambush stuck there gunner is firing at whatever he can howl but I like how lonely sitting there just like taking tests have I think I think the initial attack them around fifteen hundred we didn't get back to Mass still zero five zero six oh my god rather ornate yeah it's terrible man I mean my gunner and I just accepted it I said Am I see I think we're probably going Dad and I think we are so it was horrible the whole thing people died people were injured but as John again how is any of this connected to bow he said what we were always supposed to be looking he said his platoon leader Tara Andrews didn't mention bow before they set off for plow that day but he did mention go back and five show run a few days before they set off on the whole operation remember that and are saying you know and if you hear see any signs of Bergdahl when you know about it I mean that that was just the amendment to everything you know before any big push and it wasn't it does also sounds like it wasn't terribly specific to any one mission now got it ok now I'm beginning to understand why you could have a mission that is simultaneously not specific to Bergdahl and also involving her gray eyes see oh so it's hard it's hard cuz it's like an umbrella over everything you're doing exactly it's the perfect way to describe it so if you close the umbrella then you can make the argument was looking for Bergdahl right but if you open it you can so it's just depends on who's living but again you know from my from my small scope a specialist them and I I don't know who knows what above me right now I only know it I know John told me it's totally possible this was a specific mission to look for Bo but that information has never filtered down to him John's Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Clint Baker would probably now I have been able to talk to him but I did talk to his Number two command Sargent Major Ken Wolf he's out of the military now but at the time he was the highs and see on the Battalion commanders in the privates he cared about them it took me quite a long time to persuade can talk to me he has no love lost for about the things he sell fresh clean and simple traitor to his unit but finally after many emails and negotiations can agreed on one condition he wanted to be able to say this the families who lost sons during this deployment in to let him know that there are signs did not die looking for PF C Berg all their sons did and I looking for him explain why why you're saying like y you know this to be true because all you know you've got to do is look at a map and look at a time frame ok so time for him again the incidents that resulted in the six deaths in their Battalion happened between August eighteen and September fifth about two months after we left we we we look and we live and we looked in fine but you can't and this is where this is where it gets very difficult for for people to understand because you never know in the Army is everyone saying we stop looking for you okay right brain but there's a deal you know it's it's been forty five plus days at this point we know at and he's in Pakistan right Eva like the first is not leaving its battle space and going into Pakistan to find that I can means by look at a map because if anyone was going after Beau in Pakistan would be a special forces team not an Infantry unit and says Of course they were going to keep their eyes and ears open but if your commander your bouncing no man left behind with some very practical matters your Intel regarding the dust one is drying up you're unlikely to find in Afghanistan anyway there's an Afghan presidential election to prepare for war to win so you're not sending your guys on search missions anymore in terms of operations they needed to get back to work Ken says that Pulau mission had nothing to do with what some of the soldiers will say is Okay maybe not directly but it's still connected to bow because the search for both affected everything they talk alot about second and third order effects a concept that strolled in the soldiers that everything they do has consequences once or twice removed the surge changed the course of their deployment change the landscape of their overall mission and a bunch of detrimental ways and that led to people dying I put their argument a cannon well sure you know the September fourth mission was an expressly only to go look for Bergdahl say but because we had been out looking for him for the past two months we had been making inroads in certain places and because we had to kind of pull away from that and focus on looking for him and we became much more kinetic Lee became more aggressive we're going into places we hadn't been before we were stretched and that that it gave the insurgents a foothold in places you know where we had kind of kept them at bay and now those places were more dangerous like that's one of the arguments though may mean is how a fair argument doesn't hold water because you're you're in a a very bad regardless you can get killed any day I mean if you could you could have been on a random patrol in Pulau owned the twenty ninth of June in Hayden ID as well so I mean I get that however it is purely speculation and hypothetical speculation and hypothetical to Cannes are a far cry from say knowledge and understanding hands as they were so many factors factors beyond though the soldiers are not taking into account many factors they aren't aware of to be a perfect example he said he did he tell me this whole story about you buy a cow and the surrounding villages different factions have been in conflict there since the early nineteen seventies the loyalists in the monarchy kicking around the communist sympathizers Owen in when the commies come in the They kick the loyalists around the well and when Callum and comes in they take the communists around and then we come in we take the Taliban now so now they retaliate or some of these folks they went across the border into Pakistan because they want to kick around and then when they came back they found that their houses were occupied by the people who were kicking around for a job said they're angry I just come back from Pakistan who know after ten years ago this is my house and now you're living there is no you can't go down to the county courthouse sure on and call up this deed says this house belongs to me the two will you do you fight over so it didn't matter that you can see Bergdahl walked off there was conflict that was soo much deeper and bird all and im quite frankly so much more important than Bergdahl just to solve their problem in fact EK that these guys they don't understand guys that are making these arguments I sin is not there and it's not because they're bad guys it's not because are informed it's because they aren't privy to this same information that I am in n here's here's the deal this story I just told you you know how long it took me to learn that the non months took me nine months to roll in there all the time and talking to people before they laid a whole story out for me in right their mission is different than my mission my mission was to go out there and figure out what the problem is why you know why every time we rolled through this one place we got blown up for the soldiers who see all of this different lane Ken doesn't begrudge them their perspective
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S02 Episode 11: Present for Duty

S02 Episode 11: Present for Duty

This American Life