Recruitment wrongs

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It is unfortunate that the article on Bowe Bergdahl (“A Fragile Spirit,” June 15) by The Washington Post’s Stephanie McCrummen could not have been published earlier — it might have saved a few million words and ceaseless media speculation. I know that it certainly changed my perspective on the matter.

Having served in the U.S. Army at the end of the Korean War, I witnessed the plight of many soldiers who returned to the United States and tried desperately to fit back in to normal duty or civilian life.

I also saw the devastation caused by RIF (reduction in forces) when commissioned and noncommissioned officers lost their latest wartime promotions and reverted back to lower grades. I could only imagine the horrible psychological jolt they experienced with limited or no professional help. Many of them should never have been in the service. Most of them needed professional help, but I doubt if they received it. I know, as a platoon leader and company commander, I was faced with court martial duties and mentoring without any direct personal experience.

Sgt. Bergdahl probably faced similar circumstances and tried to find his way out of a black hole — an unbearable situation. As I read the article for the second time, I began to see Sgt. Bergdahl as an artist trying to express himself in a very unfriendly environment. I feel that what he did was wrong — but apparently our recruitment parameters also are wrong.

I also find it hard to believe that recruitment goals allowed for waivers for problematic histories “at a rate of one for every five recruits.” Perhaps it is time to divert some of the huge Department of Defense military spending to the process of recruitment.


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