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US military in Sweden to bring back AWOL airman

29 Jun 2012, 12:09

Published: 29 Jun 2012 12:09 GMT+02:00

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"First and foremost they want to force him to establish his identity," said Emma Persson, the Swedish attorney for former US airman David Hemler told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

"They want him to return to the United States where he will be put on trial."

Hemler, now 49, recently came forward after 28 years of living under an assumed identity in Sweden after deserting from the US Air Force's 6913th Electronic Security Squadron in Augsburg, Germany in 1984.

While nearly three decades have passed since Hemler went AWOL, he remains a wanted man by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI).

In an effort to bring Hemler to justice, the US military this week sent two representatives stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Stockholm to meet with Persson about how to proceed with the case.

According to the Air Force, Hemler is a "security risk" who had a "high-security clearance" due to his work on a secret project directed against the Soviet Union.

But Hemler has denied having access to sensitive information during his time at the US air base.

In a meeting held in Stockholm on Thursday with US military officials and a representative from the US embassy in Stockholm, Hemler's attorney explained that her client couldn't be forced to do anything against his will here in Sweden.

Hemler, who did not attend the meeting, told DN that he was open to being fingerprinted and submitting DNA samples to confirm his identity, but he wasn't yet ready to return to the United States.

"I won't go back until I've got guarantees about what the maximum penalty will be," he told DN.

Due to the US military's efforts to bring him to justice, Hemler has cancelled a planned trip to his home state of Pennsylvania over concerns for his safety.

"A number of people have said there is a lot of hostility against me in the United States," he said.

After arriving in Sweden in 1984, Hemler eventually gained residency under a false name, attended university and, over time, built up a rather unassuming life as a father and husband, despite an admittedly dubious story about how he first ended up in Sweden.

"I made up a story that I had run away from my parents while they were travelling but nobody believed it," he told DN.

Story continues below…

As the US military pursues him, Hemler continues to live and work in Sweden under his assumed identity, which he has refused to divulge to the media.

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Your comments about this article

13:12 June 29, 2012 by BigBossMan
After 28 years he is not AWOL, he´s a deserter. You´re only AWOL for the first 30 days.
13:44 June 29, 2012 by StockholmSam
The USAF should have released him when he requested a release years ago. They caused this problem and now US taxpayers are paying for the paperwork and this guy's family is suffering. The USAF screwed up and brought this on themselves. Whenever anyone on your team indicates they do not want to be on your team, forcing them to remain is simply asking for trouble.

On the flip side, the guy should have fulfilled his commitment. But apparently his principles regarding Reagan's foreign policies outweighed his principles regarding a written contract. What would you do? Support an effort to kill people or break a contract?

I am betting he joined the Air Force in the beginning as a poverty-draft victim.
13:46 June 29, 2012 by skumdum
I hope they fry this coward.
14:39 June 29, 2012 by gabeltoon
For goodness sake give this guy and the rest of us a break. This all happened about thirty years ago.So he left his posting went to SWEDEN.Did he give away any important secrets it seems not. So why are the AMERICAN MILITARY wasting their tax payers money on blowing this whole thing out of proportion. If this guy wants to make contact again with his parents then let him, he can always pay to bring his parents to SWEDEN to visit. ARE YOU GOING TO CARRY THIS ON FOR EVER. LET THINGS BE IT WAS 30 YES 30 YEARS AGO. GET A LIFE.
14:56 June 29, 2012 by hipersons1
This guy should be @sweden for a week.
14:57 June 29, 2012 by Rat bat
Well he did go AWOL leaving his coworkers to have to take on his work.

I guess that his coworkers are not best pleased with him, imagine while you toil away while someone else runs off. Then you have to toil away harder as there is now 10 mens worth of work and only 9 of you now.
14:58 June 29, 2012 by Slash
I have just one thing to say..this guy is screwed now....

he should have known before making his true identity public that its USA....
15:08 June 29, 2012 by millionmileman
It could be worse. I spoke to the Luftwaffe pilot who broke the distance record for the greatest distance flown in an Me-109 just a couple of days before the end of the War in Europe in May 1945. He saw the writing on the wall an flew 411 miles in his plane which was refueled to the brim all the way to a southern Sweden air base.

There he was arrested, interogated and because he had flow from eastern Germany he was handed over the Russians. Then he spent 5 years in the Gulag before emigrating to the USA.
15:34 June 29, 2012 by smilingjack
Hes gone public now so they cant kidnap him off the street and render him off to turkey for questioning. also probably running out of people to torture and so need to keep their hand in. sorry the rest of the world and international law sees it as torture but the good old usa - land of freedom fries and puppies and happy smiles sees it as questioning. be afraid buddy your about to fall into the hands of the most ruthless, blood thirsty mass murders in existance. christian america.
17:02 June 29, 2012 by fakeempire
Why did he go public! Such an idiot!!
20:03 June 29, 2012 by RobinHood
He fessed up because he was tired of living a lie.

The US militiary see it as their duty to give the guy at least a nominal punishment as a warning to the next unhappy airman, and out of respect to his colleagues who stuck it out and finished their tour.
20:27 June 29, 2012 by GLO
Cowards are all the same, just ask Assange.......
21:11 June 29, 2012 by ffa11
Fry the cowards who never joined the army in the first place.... no?
21:38 June 29, 2012 by Opinionfool
The article says:

'According to the Air Force, Hemler is a "security risk" who had a "high-security clearance" due to his work on a secret project directed against the Soviet Union.

But Hemler has denied having access to sensitive information during his time at the US air base.'

This would be the same "high-security clearance" needed by whoever pulled the US Embassy Cables off and handed them over to Wikileaks. If Bradley Manning did do that as the US military allege then just how high a clearance did David Hemler; Manning's was very low.

It's just the typical punitive charges being brought because the US military have been shown up in public again.
23:13 June 29, 2012 by Carbarrister
Hemler does not strike me as the sharpest tool in the drawer. I am not sure what he thought would happen when he made his identity known, but if he had done any computer research the outcome was predictable. I counseled several

awol soldiers in my legal practice and advised them both to turn themselves in. In both cases the Army took that into account when imposing a much lesser sentence than if they would have been caught.
00:30 June 30, 2012 by Svensksmith
Leave him in Sweden. He's more a Swede than an American, now.
17:29 June 30, 2012 by rise
I think the deserter is very naive. Why should his treachery have become forgiven and forgotten only because some decades have passed? Why he has simply never payed for his crime.

"Bohoo, I've missed my parents so I think I've already payed!"

I'm sure he has suffered a lot but still that's pretty naive and childishly. It doesn't work that way, the law-book is hardly taking his feelings into account. And he chose the situation for himself! The way I see it it's the US' authorities bloody duty to try and make him pay for that choice of his - his choice of betrayal (hard as it may be now, in Sweden as he is). Otherwise what image would it show to future deserters?
19:14 June 30, 2012 by jman01
This is just the tip of the Iceberg. When the I.R.S. gets involved, he'll never be able to return home. They will probably try to prosecute him for "failure to file." If he misses his parents so much, he could send them a plane ticket assuming they are healthy enough to travel. The Air Force in 1984 wasn't the worst place in the world to be, he should have finished his commitment and then left. It had twice the personnel of today and much more relaxed individual standards and responsibilities. I'm inclined to believe there is more to this story than what he's telling. I've been in the U.S. Air Force over 10 years, and will be leaving in the next year after becoming enlightened to the U.S. foreign policy practices in my lifetime....I just can't do it anymore. Plus I've been in uniform more for economic reasons than personal belief. But i'm still finishing my commitment. He put his family and co-workers in a very concerned and disheartening position over a crooked politicians actions. I commend his moral perspective, but not his actions. I will also mention that I have worked informally with Air Force OSI, and their "bread and butter" is counter-intelligence. For all we know they could be after him for a myriad of reasons not mentioned by either party in this article. Keep in mind if he answers for his crimes as an Airman it will be under a Military Court. Not the same as the U.S. court system, which may want him later for other reasons.
20:19 June 30, 2012 by james_g
Very apt name, #3 - both halves. You've spelled scum wrong though, and there's a silent 'b' at the end of dumb...
07:48 July 1, 2012 by schmuck281
There was no US Air Force Base in Augsburg in 1984. There was the Joint Services radio intercept station at Gablingen which is what I suppose they are talking about. Everything in the place was secret. I had a security clearance but was never allowed inside the gate.

Hemler's assertion that he was not allowed access to classified info is specious. Access is decided by "need to know" but simply being at that installation was enough to insure that he knew considerable that would have been of interest to the Eastern Bloc.

OK, it was 28 years ago. But there;s no expiration on bad decisions.

If Sweden wants to keep him, that's their decision. I don't know Swedish law but if they want to provide a university education to everyone that shows up, it's fine with me.

But if he wants to come back to the U.S. the account must be settled.
12:15 July 1, 2012 by klubbnika
How nice. Another Assange-wannabe wants to have guarantees after he committed crime. Is it a trend now? And why does Sweden not sending him back? he lied about his identity and got the residence permit on the fasle premises. Ludicrous.
17:24 July 1, 2012 by rise

"he lied about his identity and got the residence permit on the fasle premises."

It'll be interesting to see what's going to happen. Obviously residency has been given to a man which identity in fact does not exist. Surely the residency now isn't legal and therefore not valid any longer? Are papers/documents he may have got from the time spent at the university still valid? Imagine building a whole life upon a lie!
21:04 July 1, 2012 by cogito
Leave him in Sweden. He's more a Swede than an American, now. (#17) by Svensksmith

Hemler does not strike me as the sharpest tool in the drawer. (#16) by Carbarrister

Exactly. .
05:02 July 2, 2012 by randyt
There was no draft in 1984, it had ended around 1976-77.

Do a yahoo/google search for the guy's name but there was a soldier assigned to Korea that crossed the DMZ and was held in N. Korea for like 30 years. He and his Korean assigned Japanese wife got out. He came back to the states and had a 'day in court,' released and is now back in Japan with his wife farming.
10:37 July 10, 2012 by cmbsweden
Well he isn't the brightest guy alive; by allowing his picture to be published, how long do you think it will take until someone gives him up?
23:57 July 20, 2012 by Tsarina1
Stockholm Sam, you can't be serious.

The USAF doesn't work like the Swedish military, you can't just resign. He made a commitment to stay for 6 years, took an oath and was a Russian/German linguist with a high security clearance. HE and HE alone caused this problem and he broke the law. HE put his family through 28 years of pain. HE lied to everyone who knows him in Sweden.

And it wasn't the United States that was killing people, it was the Soviets, East Germans, and Soviet satelitte countries.

And you lose your bet on him being a "poverty draft victim". The draft ended in 1973. He voluntarily enlisted in 1981.

Smiling Jack: Your jealously of America is rearing its ugly head and its beyond annoyng. Shut up.
13:57 October 17, 2012 by smilingjack
Tsarina you poor deluded girl

No one with half a brain or more is jealous of the USA.

That is up there with you dont have snow in Australia do you?

Im guessing your a christian right away.

Who would be jealous of a nation of war mongering, highly uneducated, obese redneck christians?

A nation that revolves around slave labour. 2 weeks annual leave anyone. Or working for tips.

A place where this a decent chance you will get gunned down by the police, a gang banger, a bitter fired employee or a deranged ex soldier when ever you leave your house. If that house hasnt been repossessed.

The USA wasnt killing people in the 70's / 80's? you drongo. Go read about Oliver North and Ronnie ( Im not too bright ) Reagen. A little decade long war between Iran and Iraq where the USA was in it up to their necks. That is just the tip of the ice berg.

Im guessing as a yank girl christian you arent the most educated person in the world. Nor the slimmest.

Wont be shutting up anytime soon.
20:56 February 9, 2013 by Ivan1619
Smilingjack, it appears you are not too bright yourself. Your twist on American History is lacking. Your are either another US Miltary member run away or just some poor slob who is trying to express himself or herself in some manner. You are doing poorly. Please stay in Sweden along with your deserter buddy. Or better yet check in with North Korea. They will like you.
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