Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Family, friends await news about soldier

Army is tight-lipped about Bowe Bergdahl’s status


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Bowe Bergdahl

A call to U.S. Army Central Command in Tampa, Fla., last week yielded no news on the status of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, a Hailey resident apparently captured by Taliban militants on July 2.

Nonetheless, people across the country continue to pray for Bergdahl and make inquiries about whether the military has made any progress in locating him. Lacking news from national media outlets, people from places such as Oklahoma, Texas and Vermont have called the Express in search of information about Bergdahl.

The circumstances that led to Bergdahl's capture remain uncertain.

Bergdahl was raised in Blaine County, near Hailey. He is a member of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.

He entered the Army in June 2008 and went through basic training in Fort Benning, Ga.

Bergdahl is currently the only U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan.

Bergdahl's official military status changed from "whereabouts unknown" to "missing/captured" on July 15 after a 28-minute online video showed him sitting cross-legged in front of a low table and a white sheet while being interviewed by his captors.

Though family, friends and the Pentagon deliberately kept Bergdahl's identity secret for nearly three weeks after the BBC reported a U.S. soldier missing July 2, the government was forced to reveal his name when the video appeared. Bergdahl's identification tags were displayed in the video, which officials believe was made about July 14.

U.S. Navy Capt. Jack Hanzlik, public affairs officer for U.S. Central Command, responded to a call from the Idaho Mountain Express last week, saying there was no news on Bergdahl's status. Hanzlik reported to Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, public affairs officer for the Idaho National Guard, who forwarded the information to the Mountain Express.

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"He said there is no news from his standpoint," said Marsano, who has been in regular contact with the Bergdahl family since the soldier's capture.

Marsano said he will notify the Mountain Express if he receives official notice of a change to Bergdahl's status.

"The Bergdahl family is very grateful for the outpouring of support from the local community and by well-wishers across the country," Marsano said.

Following Bergdahl's capture, mobile television vehicles descended upon Hailey for several days, providing national coverage of the soldier's plight. The New York Times covered the story, as well as several national TV networks.

At that time, conflicting stories circulated concerning the circumstances that led to Bergdahl's capture. The U.S. military reported that he left his military base near Patika, Afghanistan, with three Afghan soldiers before being captured. Bergdahl's captors said he was taken after lagging behind while on patrol.

Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter, who has known Bergdahl all his life, said he is monitoring the situation in Afghanistan closely and, like everyone else in Bergdahl's hometown, is waiting for news.

"In the news, you see that there are some possible cooperative agreements between the U.S. and Pakistan with regard to dealings with the Taliban," Gunter said. "We will just continue to pray for our armed forces and for the quick and prompt return of Bowe."

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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