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An exclusive look back at the army unit Bowe Bergdahl deployed with in 2009

Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - 03:58

June 4 - A look inside the 1st Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, the Alaska based unit Bowe Bergdahl served with, and their area of operations in eastern Afghanistan. Deborah Gembara reports.

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EDITORS NOTE: Reporter Deborah Gembara was embedded with the 1st Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in 2009, arriving two months after Bowe Bergdahl's duty status was changed to "captured." The unit has since left Afghanistan. They operated in the heart of Taliban country, sometimes arriving under cover of darkness and other times, forced to take their chances in the wide open. The 1st Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment was the unit Bowe Bergdahl deployed to Afghanistan with. In 2009, they were based in some of the country's most hostile terrain. Getting to Mest, the outpost Bergdahl was assigned to, was an ordeal. Armored vehicles were a moving target in Eastern Afghanistan, which is why soldiers equipped with night vision would often travel after midnight. Such precautions, however, were no guarantee. SOUNDBITE: 1-501ST SOLDIER FAENZA SAYING: "Our lead vehicle was struck by an IED and it hit the middle of their truck and it disabled it. We saw three figures on standing on the side of the road." Soldiers operating in total darkness would have a long wait before help came for the IED damaged vehicle - and this was not an isolated incident. This was the day-to-day reality for Bergdahl's unit. On June 30th 2009 --- the morning Bowe Bergdahl didn't show up for roll call, introduced a new level of uncertainty. Bergdahl's classification was changed from active to DUSTWUN - Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown. Immediately, (all of region's) resources and soldiers were tasked with finding Bergdahl. Two and a half weeks later, his status was changed to "captured." How the 23-year-old soldier wound up in the hands of the Taliban is unclear. Some soldiers from the 1-501st say Bergdahl walked off base after his shift. They want to see him court martialed for desertion. The Department of Defense has never confirmed this. They promoted him twice while he was in captivity, and have still offered no details about what happened the day he was captured. A man down, the soldiers of the 1-501st fought on during some of the heaviest fighting in the conflict. They suffered several casualties throughout their different companies. Many soldiers fought through injuries. The battalion's area of operations was a stopover for alleged insurgents moving between Pakistan and Afghanistan. One of the company's leaders, Shane Pospisil, said several of the men they stopped were carrying multiple IDs, SIMcards, and weapons. Even on base, the fight was impossible to escape --- they were responding to constant attacks on their position. Comanche company's tactical operations center buzzed on a regular basis. On this day, one platoon had come under heavy fire in Panghir. They were trying to determine where to send a Medevac. The grind taught the soldiers to appreciate the near-misses. Vontae Banks had a bullet graze his leg just before it went straight through his gun. Close calls in the face of tremendous pressure to hunt down Bergdahl's captors and other Taliban High Value Targets (HVTs). SOUNDBITE:1-501ST SOLDIER LANCE AMSDEN SAYING: "Right now, we're going in guns a blazin' to get him. You understand? I've got aircraft over here. I'll keep all these guys here. If this guy is a Taliban commander..." Few in the battalion could have anticipated they would leave Afghanistan without Bergdahl. But the war continued -with many soldiers from his unit returning for third and fourth tours.

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An exclusive look back at the army unit Bowe Bergdahl deployed with in 2009

Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - 03:58

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