Bowe Bergdahl’s lawyers on Wednesday released a transcript of an interview between Bergdahl and an Army investigating officer that stretched over two days. In the transcript, the Bergdahl reflects on his childhood, his disillusionment with military leadership in Afghanistan and the moment the Taliban captured him.
Here are some of the most striking excerpts from the Bergdahl interview:
On his childhood and how it shaped him
I was home-schooled so … I wasn’t raised in a very social environment and my parents raised me in a very strict, very religious setting. Obviously the Christian religion is a very ethical, moral religion. My father, despite the fact that he was never in the military, he was very — his mindset was very military. He raised me knowing how to shoot weapons. I have probably been doing that since I was two to three years old. So that has — the weapons and the very strict and very ethical environment that I was raised in was the most prominent theme throughout my life. However, it wasn’t the best house to be in.
On growing up in a different world
Growing up the way I grew up, I … lacked the understanding of how to move through society. I am more comfortable in the mountains. I grew up in the mountains. You know, wandering around following cats, and dogs, and horses; that is what I grew up doing. That was my main experience. So when I got out in the world and I started trying to get jobs in cities, it was a little overwhelming. So, finally, I decided that I loved the ocean and the Coast Guard is a very — in my mind, it has a very extremely prestigious, honorable mission on American soil. It’s home defense and every day they are out there saving lives.
On having a panic attack soon after joining the Coast Guard
What ended up happening was, I ended up having a panic attack, about three weeks into it. Again, I don’t have a good recollection of what happened. I just remember that it came about one evening when everyone was going down for roll call. What happened was, they got me to the hospital. And, in those moments, I think it was a psychiatrist — there was a couple people that were there. They came in and asked me some questions. And I believe I said something about — I was trying to say, basically, “I can’t save these people.”
On being frustrated with how his unit was run in Afghanistan and needing to “make a plan” to respond
I had to come up with a plan … The only thing that I could see was, I needed to get somebody’s attention. The only person who is going to listen to me is somebody who has a reason to listen to me. And the person whose attention I need to get was going to have to be somebody who is of a higher rank then the battalion commander.
Now, I am not going to go to the media because I don’t like the way the media does things. I have never liked the way the media does things. All they are interested in is a bunch of drama and a bunch of scandals and making money. So, I am not about to go out there and start ringing up the media so that I can start embarrassing the Army.
On what he wanted to prove
So, stupid actions, yes. Stupid young man who wanted — I had always been a failure. The Army was — I knew the Army. I knew weapons. I knew soldiers. I knew how to do that. This was my chance to prove I wasn’t just a failure.
I wanted to go Special Forces. I didn’t want to show up at the Q-course with some bullshit Article 15 and say, “Well, I am here, just like all the other guys that want to be super cool Soldiers.” I wanted to show up at the Q- 17 course saying, “I deserve to be here because I have proven myself already that I am capable of doing not what Special Forces does now, but what the real founders, the real guys back in the day did then.”
On the moment the Taliban found him
I am not running anymore. They figured it out. They basically blindfold me, hands behind my back. Tied me with one of the scarves, put me on the back of a motorcycle and they start driving. I can’t see very much. I do my — I do my best to try and get the blindfold off of my eyes, but it is not doing much. I don’t know, some minutes driving, we get to a house. They pull me off. They pull me into the house. I think it was a two-story house because I thought I saw stairs going up. They get me to the house. They basically go through my — you know, they went through my pockets when they first found me, but then at the house, you know, they take everything out and look at it. And they are talking.
Alls I can hear is talking at this point. And one of the first things they do when I get in the house is they immediately start putting some kind of a strap. They basically — I don’t know how many times — or how many things they used to tie my hand behind my back, but they used like a strap. There was a rope. There was something else. And it actually cut off the circulation to my hands and for the hours that I had my hands tied behind my back, I actually lost sensation in my thumb that I didn’t regain until like months, like actually probably years later.
Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.