Bergdahl court martial: What does misbehavior before the enemy mean?

U.S. officials announced Wednesday that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be court martialed on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for walking away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009.

While “desertion” is a pretty obvious charge, what does “misbehavior before the enemy” mean?

Misbehavior before the enemy is part of Article 99 of the US Code of Military Conduct

Any person who does one or more of the following behaviors can be subject to this charge:

1. Runs away;

2. Shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place or military property which it is his duty to defend;

3. Through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any command, unit, place or military property;

4. Casts away his arms or ammunition;

5. Is guilty of cowardly conduct;

6. Quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage;

7. Causes false alarms in any command, unit or place under control of the armed forces;

8. Willfully fails to do his utmost to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy any enemy troops, combatants, vessels, aircraft, or any other thing, which it is his duty so to encounter, engage, capture or destroy; or

9. Does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to any troops, combatants, vessels, or aircraft of the armed forces belonging to the United States or their allies when engaged in battle.

Bergdahl disappeared from his outpost on June 30, 2009.  He spent five years in captivity under the Taliban, and was released May 31, 2014 in a prisoner exchange.

Until today’s announcement, the Army had declined to release further information about the investigation, according to the Army Times.

Article 99 is punishable by death or “such punishment as a court martial may direct.” 

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