Sometime after midnight on June 30, 2009, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey left behind a note in his tent saying he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life.
He slipped off the remote military outpost in Paktika province on the border with Pakistan and took with him a soft backpack, water, knives, a notebook and writing materials, but left behind his body armor and weapons - startling, given the hostile environment around his outpost.
That account, provided by a former senior military officer briefed on the investigation into the private's disappearance, is part of a more complicated picture emerging of the capture of a soldier whose five years as a Taliban prisoner influenced high-level diplomatic negotiations, brought in foreign governments, and ended with him whisked away on a helicopter by U.S. commandos.
Bergdahl slipped away from his outpost, the senior officer said, possibly on foot but more likely hiding in a contractor's vehicle.
"He didn't walk out the gate through a checkpoint and there was no evidence he breached the perimeter wire and left that way," the officer said.
It was not until the 9 a.m. roll call on June 30 that the 29 soldiers of 2nd Platoon, Blackfoot Company, learned he was gone.
"I was woken up by my platoon leader," Joshua Cornelison, a former medic in Bergdahl's platoon, said in an interview Monday arranged by Republican strategists.
Cornelison had gone to sleep just three hours before after serving watch from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
"Hey, Doc," his platoon leader said, "Have you seen Bergdahl?"
The soldiers began a frantic search for Bergdahl using Predator drones, Apache attack helicopters and military tracking dogs.
All in all, they searched for 90 days, with clear orders: If they heard from any locals that there was a chance that Bergdahl was nearby, they should drive to the location, do a foot patrol of the nearby area and talk to the locals.
Cody Full, then a specialist in the platoon, said he and other platoon members grew increasingly bitter at the time they were spending looking for Bergdahl.
"He had sent all his belongs home - his computer, personal items," Full, now 25, said in an interview Monday also arranged by Republican strategists.
He said Bergdahl used to gaze at the mountains around them and say he wondered if he could get to China from there.
"He wouldn't drink beer or eat barbecue and hang out with the other 20-year-olds, he was always in his bunk, he ordered Rosetta Stone for all the languages there, learning Dari and Arabic and Pashto," Full said.
Other platoon members said Bergdahl wrote Jason Bourne-type novels in which he inserted himself as the lead character.
Cornelison and Full both said that now that Bergdahl has been released, they want to see him court-martialed as a deserter.