Army officials say Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is in stable condition and working daily with health professionals after being held by the Taliban for five years in Afghanistan. VPC
SAN ANTONIO — U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former Taliban detainee who was released from captivity in a prisoner swap, is making progress in reintegration, military officials said Friday.
Maj. Gen Joseph DiSalvo said Bergdahl saluted him and appeared to have good soldierly comportment after getting off the plane in the United States before going to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
"He appeared like anyone who sees a two-star general, a little bit nervous," DiSalvo said. "Nonetheless, he saluted" and greeted the general in English.
Officials say he is undergoing a reintegration process that emphasizes slowly reintroducing him to making choices, something that was denied to him in five years of captivity.
His move from Germany to the San Antonio facility marks the next step.
The officials, who appeared at a news conference in San Antonio, declined to release many details about Bergdahl's physical and mental condition but said he is in stable condition medically, can walk and initially has been put on a bland diet.
Asked if he has made any specific requests, Col. Ron Wool said, "Peanut butter is a favorite."
A flight transporting Bergdahl from a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, landed in San Antonio at about 1:40 a.m. CT Friday.
The U.S. Army South command is charged with helping Bergdahl re-acclimate physically mentally and socially to his new freedom. Among the medical center's personnel are specialists trained to conduct medical and psychological exams and interviews about his time in solitary confinement.
"We see the returnee as a normal, healthy person who survived an abnormal event," said Col. Bradley Poppen, an Army psychologist. "The coping skills that he used to survived this abnormal, five-year event may not be normal now," in part because he is being allowed to make choices again — little choices people take for granted, like what to eat and when to go to the bathroom.
He will decide at his own pace when he will see his family, and his relatives know this, Poppen said. They are not in San Antonio and have said they will not release their travel plans publicly.
The Taliban held Bergdahl for nearly five years after he went missing from his post in Afghanistan in 2009. He was released May 31 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners who were being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
President Barack Obama and military leaders have said that Bergdahl's health was declining and that getting him home safely was a priority.
However, the administration has faced harsh criticism that Bergdahl's release came at a high price. Many also have questioned the circumstances that caused Bergdahl's initial capture.
In a statement sent early Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said: "There is no timeline for this (rehabilitation) process. Our focus remains on his health and well being."
He also said that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was emphasizing the need to support Bergdahl's recovery, first and foremost.
"Secretary Hagel is confident that the Army will continue to ensure that Sergeant Bergdahl receives the care, time and space he needs to complete his recovery and reintegration," Kirby said.
Contributing: Gregory Matthews, KENS-TV, San Antonio