Mr. Harrigan is basically correct. There are three courts-martial, summary which is judge only, special with three board members and general, which has five board members, i.e. the jury.
As a squadron commander for five years at two Air Force bases, I referred military offenders to all three categories in coordination with the base Judge Advocate’s office. The accused can request a mix of non-commissioned and commissioned officers on the board. The accused is provided an Area Defense Counsel but can hire civilian attorneys at his own expense along with the military defense counsel who knows the protocol of the courts-martial.
As Mr. Harrigan wrote, the findings go to the “Convening Authority” which is the senior commander on the base where the case is filed. Working with the Judge Advocate General’s office, the Convening Authority is given options and then decides on the type of trial court. The defendant must consent to a summary Courts-Martial but it has a more limited range of punishment.
Without all of the facts it’s difficult to state if the Bergdahl case warrants a general courts-martial, but based on my experience and the nature of the charges, if validated by the Article 32 hearing, I agree with Mr. Harrigan, he should go to a general courts-martial.
Phil Henning, Smithton