Bergdahl says he wanted to be real-life Jason Bourne
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As he walked off of his Afghanistan outpost in the middle of the night, carrying little more than knives, a compass, snacks and water, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said he saw himself as a real-life action hero in the mold of Jason Bourne.

In taped conversations with Mark Boal, a Hollywood screenwriter whose war movies like "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Hurt Locker" have the capacity to fill audiences with similar delusions of grandeur, Bergdahl told his story for the first time publicly.


Published on Thursday by the podcast “Serial,” which tells one nonfiction story over the course of a season in weekly 40-minute segments, the tapes shed light on the series of events leading up to Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban in June 2009 and subsequent five-year imprisonment.

Bergdahl said his motivations for walking off of his base were twofold.

First, he said he was consumed by a desire to “prove to the world” that he was the “real thing.”

“Like, doing what I did was me saying, ‘I am, like, I don’t know, Jason Bourne,’ ” Bergdahl said.

“That I could be what it is all those guys out there who go to the movies and watch those movies, they all want to be that, but I wanted to prove that I was that,” he said.

Second, disgusted by what he saw as a failure of leadership in the Army, Bergdahl said he wanted to cause a “DUSTWUN” – Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown – alert in order to draw attention to necessary reforms.

“And what I was seeing from my first unit all the way up into Afghanistan, all I was seeing was, basically, leadership failure, to the point that the lives of the guys standing next to me were, literally, from what I could see, in danger of something seriously going wrong and somebody being killed,” he said.

Much like another would-be whistleblower alleged of treason, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, Bergdahl said he had to take matters into his own hands.

“Now, as a private first class, nobody is going to listen to me, so nobody is going to take me serious if I say an investigation needs to be put underway, that this person needs to be psychologically evaluated," he said.

Bergdahl planned to walk from his outpost, OP Mest, to his base at FOB Sharana, which he estimated he could do in about 24 hours.

But about 20 minutes into the ill-fated journey, Bergdahl said he realized he had made a mistake.

“And I knew that was going to happen, but suddenly it really starts to sink in that I really did something bad. Well, not bad, but I really did something serious,” he said.

After attempting to alter his course, but getting lost after he failed to check his compass for two hours, Bergdahl said he was like a sitting duck in the desert sun.

He said he was eventually spotted by a fleet of six or seven Taliban fighters carrying AK-47s and riding motorcycles.

“They were driving along the road, and I can’t tell you what set them off, I can’t tell you how they spotted me, I don’t, I don’t know, they just – they deviated, came off the road, came towards me,” he said.

“Out there I was in the open, open desert, and I’m not about to outrun a bunch of motorcycles, so there isn’t, you know, I couldn’t do anything against six or seven guys with AK-47s, and they pulled up, and that was it.”

Bergdahl would spend the next five years of his life in Taliban captivity, where military officials said he was tortured and kept in solitary confinement.

President Obama agreed in 2014 to exchange five Taliban fighters in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl, causing a national firestorm about the wisdom of trading terrorists for an alleged deserter.

The Army has charged Bergdahl with two counts of desertion and misconduct before the enemy. If convicted, he could face a life sentence in prison.

"Serial" will release the next portion of Bergdahl's story on Dec. 17.