Former Army Staff Sgt. Justin Gerleve told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl “totally deserted” his compatriots Wednesday on The Lead.
Gerleve was Bergdahl’s squad leader at the time of their deployment in Afghanistan and said initially Bergdahl appeared to be a good soldier. However, based on the body of evidence following his disappearance Gerleve said it was clear the Idaho native deserted his post.
“I believe that he totally deserted not only his fellow soldiers but his leadership that wanted the best for him and for our country,” he said.
Gerleve added the aftermath of Bergdahl’s desertion was “very upsetting.”
“It’s one of the things I took my job, being in the military to the fullest and knowing that one of my soldiers walked off, it was more heartbreaking than anything. It made me really sit down and think ‘what’s going on here?'”
Host Jake Tapper questioned Gerleve about reports the Taliban’s tactics seemed to become more precise following Bergdahl’s capture.
“Do you think that’s because information was being shared by Bergdahl, either willingly or perhaps under duress?” Tapper asked.
“Yes,” Gerleve said. The former squad leader said he could not confirm the information came from Bergdahl, but IEDs and other attacks became more more “pinpoint.” “I can’t say for sure the leakage was from Bergdahl, but it’s kind of that suspicion that it did happen. Everything that we taught him it was coming to as far as direct attacks and indirect attacks.”
Gerleve also said he heard firsthand communication from Afghans indicating Bergdahl was “running around looking for people to speak english and wanted to seek out the Taliban.”
Tapper went on to ask Gerleve whether he thought a hero’s welcome would be appropriate for Bergdahl.
“I feel that the hero’s welcome is not right because he did dessert and us soldiers on the ground with him that morning, days prior, and soldiers that looked for him countless of hours, countless of days. The soldiers that lost their lives are the true heroes,” Gerleve said.
Gerleve also rejected National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s assertion that Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction.” “I don’t think so at all because […] he deserted his fellow soldiers.”
The CNN host concluded by asking Gerleve what his motivation is for speaking out.
“He’s a deserter, America needs to know, he’s back and needs to be accountable for his actions,” Gerleve said.