Bergdahl Begins Next Phase of Recovery in San Antonio
By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 13, 2014 Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier freed in Afghanistan after nearly five years of captivity last month, has entered the next phase of his recovery in stable condition at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where he arrived early this morning on a military flight from Germany.
“He stepped off the plane [and] was looking at an open hangar with me there to greet him,” Army Maj. Gen. Joseph P. DiSalvo, commander of U.S. Army South, told reporters at the medical center this afternoon.
“He appeared just like any sergeant would when they see a two star general -- a little bit nervous, but he looked good,” DiSalvo said when asked to describe Bergdahl’s mood as he arrived in the United States after being freed as America’s only prisoner of war in the Afghan conflict. “He saluted. He had good deportment.”
Bergdahl, 28, was abducted by the Haqqani network after disappearing from his outpost in Afghanistan’s remote Paktika province in June 2009. The Taliban handed him over to U.S. Special Forces near the Afghan-Pakistan border May 31 in exchange for the release of five senior Taliban commanders jailed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who will be exiled in Qatar for a year.
The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance remain unclear. Senior Pentagon officials, including Army Secretary John M. McHugh as well as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey have said an investigation will be conducted after Bergdahl recovers, and that punitive measures could be taken if he is found to have violated military law.
Today, Army officials briefing reporters on Bergdahl’s status would not answer questions about the circumstances surrounding his disappearance or his conditions during captivity, saying such matters will be part of the investigation to come. At this point, they said, the focus continues to be on the process of reintegration, which has no set timeframe and is driven at the pace of the returnee.
“It’s a slow decompression to bring him up slowly and reintroduce him to what’s been transpiring over the past five years,” said Army Col. Ron Wool, among the team overseeing Bergdahl’s reintegration, who said staff members at the medical center are pleased with his physical state.
Army officials say Bergdahl’s family was not on hand for his arrival in Texas and that they have requested continued privacy surrounding their son’s return. Bergdahl himself has not spoken publicly since he was freed, and it’s not known whether he is aware of the controversy surrounding his release.
“At some point in time, he will be exposed to the media inquiries to him,” said Army Col. Brad Poppen, one of the reintegration experts treating the soldier who remains on active duty status.
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