Bowe Bergdahl venturing off-base
Updated On: Jul 02 2014 06:09:02 AM CDT
Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier held captive for five years by militants before his release a month ago, has ventured several times off an Army base in Texas as part of the effort to get him used to everyday life in America, a military spokeswoman said.
His release on May 31 in exchange for five Taliban being held by the U.S. military has rankled some, including former members of his unit, who said he was a deserter who endangered colleagues searching for him. Yet while investigating circumstances surrounding his departure, the military has also said it's focused on making sure Bergdahl gets better mentally and physically, so he can gradually readjust to normal life.
Since being freed, Bergdahl has been carefully monitored at a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and his home since June 13, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
He recently transitioned from inpatient care at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas to outpatient care, the Army said on June 22.
Still, Bergdahl has hardly left the care of military health professionals.
Members of his reintegration team escort him whenever he leaves base and interacts with the public, the Army spokeswoman said. His stops have included a library, a supermarket and several stores of his choosing.
Bergdahl has also eaten at fast-food and sit-down restaurants. The Army sergeant is encouraged to pick the places, but because he's not from San Antonio, he is offered some advice.
"Sometimes they sit at the table with him," the Army spokeswoman said of those on Bergdahl's reintegration team who accompany him. "... Other times, they hang in the background."
During his trips off-base, Bergdahl sometimes wears civilian clothing and others times dresses in his military uniform.
In some instances while he has been in uniform, members of the public have recognized him and shaken his hand, according to the Army spokeswoman.
His reintegration phase will end sometime in the next several weeks, an Army official said.
He will then be assigned to an Army unit, according to the official, though details of his next stop have not been disclosed.
Bergdahl went missing on June 30, 2009, in Afghanistan's Paktika province, where he was deployed with the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
An Army fact-finding investigation conducted in the months after his disappearance concluded he left his outpost deliberately and of his own free will, according to an official who was briefed on the report.
But there was no definitive conclusion Bergdahl was a deserter because that would require knowing his intent, something officials couldn't learn without talking to him, a U.S. military official told CNN last month.
Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl is leading the Army's formal Bergdahl investigation, which will review previous findings. The two-star general could ask to re-interview anyone who can shed light on the case; talking to Bergdahl himself would likely be the last step in this investigation, one official said.
As of the middle of last week, the soldier hadn't been interviewed by investigators nor did he have a lawyer, one official said.
Military officials have talked to Bergdahl about the days and years after his capture as part of the reintegration process.
"We have no reason to believe that he engaged in any misconduct during that period of time," one official said late last month, referring to Bergdahl's time in captivity.
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