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May 29, 2017

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Bergdahl discharged from US Coast Guard before Afghan tour

WASHINGTON--The American soldier released in a swap with the Taliban had been discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard before he joined the army because he could not adapt to military life, officials said Wednesday.

Even Bowe Bergdahl's closest friends were dismayed when they learned he had signed up for the army after his abbreviated stint in the U.S. Coast Guard in 2006, The Washington Post reported.

Bergdahl went missing in 2009 during his deployment with U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan and was held by insurgents for nearly five years until he was released on May 31 in an exchange for five Taliban militants held at Guantanamo.

The circumstances around his disappearance in eastern Afghanistan have prompted speculation that he deserted his post.

Before joining the army, Bergdahl enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in 2006, but he did not make it beyond basic training, officials said.

A defense official said he was discharged from the Coast Guard after only 26 days.

His departure was labeled as an "uncharacterized discharge" and the reason cited was a "failure to adapt to military life," the defense official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Returning from his time in the Coast Guard, Bergdahl told friends he had faked a psychological disorder to get out, according to the Post.

His friends were skeptical of his account and two years later when he enlisted in the U.S. Army, they were shocked by his decision and the fact that he was accepted.

"I was like, 'Why and how did you even get in?'" Harrison said. "'How did they let you?' I was furious."

A journal and other writings obtained by the Post that date back to the months before he disappeared convey a troubled young man struggling to maintain his mental stability.

"I am the lone wolf of deadly nothingness," Bergdahl wrote in one passage quoted by the Post.

After he went missing in 2009, Bergdhal's journal and other personal items were sent to his close friend Kim Harrison, who he had designated as the person who should receive his remains if he was killed.

Harrison asked the Post to be identified by her former married name because she was concerned about threats.

Bergdahl's friend said she shared the journal and other correspondence with the newspaper because she had become concerned that the soldier was being falsely portrayed as a calculating deserter.

Instead, she described him as a sensitive, vulnerable young man who was simply not cut out for the regimented life of the military.

"He is the perfect example of a person who should not have gone" to war, Harrison said.

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