Serial: Podcast Responses

Serial 2: Episode 3

In the third episode of Serial 2 titled Escaping, it has been months since Bergdahl’s initial disappearance. The military has decreased their searching efforts to the point of almost being non existent and Bergdahl is still facing hell at the hands of the taliban. But as time elapses, Bergdahl quickly learns that escaping might not be the best plan for survival.

Instead of being defyant, sometimes it is easier to be obedient, even if it contradicts your personal morals. Bergdahl, as well some soldiers of the United States Army, learned this lesson. Although, some easier than others.

As a lasting effort, before it was known that Bergdahl had been captured, ranking army officers thought it would be efficient to record and air a message pleading for Bergdahl to return “home”. But when surveying soldiers as candidates, no one wanted to do it. Most soldiers viewed Bergdahl as a trader – the enemy – and any soldier who felt sympathy towards him became a trader through association. But Josh Korder, a soldier from Bergdahl’s platoon, didn’t volunteer to present a heartfelt message, rather he was forced to read a scripted filled with false sentiment. “Hey, Bowe. This is Josh. We really miss you …. we just want you to come back. We hope you’re safe. We hope everything’s goin’ OK …. so come back, Bowe.” (Josh Korder, Serial 2)

While Bergdahl never heard this message, he was going through similar circumstances. When he wasn’t being tormented by the Taliban, he was also forced into reading scripts that promoted anti American ideals. “Talk about how terrible the army is and how badly that you were treated or how corrupt the politicians are,” these were suggestions made by a member of the taliban who would record Bergdahl for propaganda.

“Getting information from me wasn’t like their main priority. Getting videos out of me was what they wanted to do.”(Bowe Bergdahl, Serial 2) And while most soldiers claimed they wouldn’t have cooperated, saying Bergdahl’s participation in those videos were in direct violation of the army’s code of conduct, military officials didn’t agree. Military officials understood that as prisoner of war, soldiers would be coerced into doing things they wouldn’t want to. And it wasn’t expected of them to die for resisting a video, nor would they be held accountable by the US for going along with the taliban’s command. When in fear, the need to survive is the greatness priority.

But before Bergdahl was consumed by fear, he made many attempts to escape. His first escape, not counting the time when he was tackled to the ground, occurred his first week in taliban custody.

Loosening his restraints, Bergdahl had managed to escape the house he was being held in and ran about 200 feet while causing alarm from residents in the area before hiding. While he was eventually caught fifthteen minutes later, Bergdahl had become better aware of surrounding before he was moved again. That was something Bergdahl attempted to always do, to gain information. “He was trying all the time to store in his memory mental pictures of every detail he could.” (Sarah Koenig, Serial 2) Bergdahl didn’t want to return as a broken soldier; he wanted to come back with valuable information. And as Bergdahl was moved from house to house, he attempted to become better aware of his surroundings just as the audience gained better spatial awareness of the region majority of these events occurred in.

In Afghanistan: A Sense of Place, an activity providing geographical context to the locations mentioned and events being told, it is easier to grasp how big and small Bergdahl’s capture was. While important, on a grander scale, said events seem small. Afghanistan is just one state amongst many. But even then, in comparison to the places located with the state itself, Afghanistan is a pretty large place and it was understandable that the Army hadn’t found Bergdahl when they first searched. There were just too many place for him to disappear or be hidden. And in relation to Pakistan – the taliban’s finish line into home territory – the two states shared a border and getting Bergdahl across couldn’t have been that difficult especially considering it had no alliance with the United States Army. No one would be looking and it would be like taking candy from a baby.