Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl saluted a general when he arrived back in the U.S. early today and "appeared as any soldier would when he saw a two-star general - a little bit nervous," Major General Joseph P. DiSalvo said today.
Bergdahl flew into San Antonio at 2:40 a.m. ET after beginning his reintegration in Germany following five years as a prisoner of the Taliban, the only American POW of the Afghan war. He was taken to the Brooke Army Medical Center.
His capture and the Obama administration's decision to swap five Taliban leaders from Gitmo to win his release has caused a storm of controversy, but Col. Bradley J. Poppen who is helping to oversee Bergdahl's treatment said Bergdahl has not been exposed to the media coverage of his return and has no access to television.
"At some point he will be exposed" to the media coverage of his story, Poppen said.
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When Bergdahl arrived in San Antonio this morning he was wearing his uniform and was met by DiSalvo.
"He demonstrated good deportment. We exchanged salutes... He appeared as any solider would when he saw a two-star general - a little bit nervous," DiSalvo said.
Disalvo and Poppen also said they did not notice any problem with Bergdahl's use of English, although early reports said he had spoken it so little over the last five years that he found it difficult.
The officers said they were pleased with physical condition, but so far his diet has been kept "bland" and that peanut butter has been one of Bergdahl's favorite foods.
The team could not say how long Bergdahl will remain at Brooke because reintegration is driven at the pace of the returnee. The three-stage reintegration process being used for Bergdahl was developed from the experience gleaned from the returns of POW’s from the Vietnam War.
Bergdahl’s first step in reintegration was in Afghanistan when he was recovered from captivity, he entered the second “decompression” phase in Germany. That phase lets returnees get the sense of predictability and control they lacked during their captivity. Poppen said “The goal is to provide him the chance to make those decisions” and gain control. “He is driving the process at this point in time.” And that includes whether Bergdahl wants to communicate with his family.
A family reunion is part of the third phase of reintegration known as “home base.” It includes continued medical and mental care and final debriefings. There is no set time period for any of the three phases.
Team members said returnees need help in doing away with the “coping skills” they used during their captivity. While useful in captivity, the coping skills may not be what’s needed for their readjustment to society.
“We also have them go through healthy storytelling, be able to tell their story in a normal, healthy manner with some meaning to put it into context in their lives as -- so they can move forward,” said Poppen.