As Bergdahl Touches Down In Texas, Reintegration Begins

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is back in the U.S. The former Taliban prisoner is now undergoing treatment at an Army hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. After nearly five years in captivity in Afghanistan, Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is back in the United States. He arrived in San Antonio early this morning from Germany, and he was greeted by Major General Joseph DiSalvo, among others.

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MAJOR GENERAL JOSEPH DISALVO: He appeared just like any sergeant would when they see a two-star general - a little bit nervous. But he looked good, and again, saluted, and had good deportment.

BLOCK: Bergdahl will spend an undetermined amount of time at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, for what the Army refers to as phase three of the reintegration process. We'll explain that in a moment. First, NPR's Wade Goodwyn, who is in San Antonio, joins us to talk about a briefing this afternoon by military doctors. Let's start with what they said about Sergeant Bergdahl's physical condition. What kind of shape is he in?

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Well, they reported Sergeant Bergdahl to be in stable condition, not good condition, which I found interesting. His physical condition has not yet progressed to where he's considered to be in good condition. He's ambulatory, as we heard. But as the officers described him during the press conference, he certainly didn't sound like he was ready to lace them up and run the quarter-mile. You know, he's been in captivity in pretty dire circumstances, according to the report - solitary confinement, kept in a small box for trying to escape. He was all by himself with no fellow prisoners for five years. That would take its toll on anyone.

BLOCK: I mentioned that Bergdahl is said to be in phase three of the reintegration process. What does that mean?

GOODWYN: Well, phase one was the recovery, his rescue from the Taliban. Phase two took place in Germany, and that was what they called decompression, which I take it to mean letting him get used to being with people who aren't predisposed to kill him 24 hours a day. And now he's ready to enter into a more active phase. And he's going to be encouraged to tell his doctors what's happened to him during those five years in detail. Here's Colonel Bradley Poppen.

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COLONEL BRADLEY POPPEN: Every reintegration process is unique, as is every captivity event. Our goal is to find out from Sergeant Bergdahl how he survived this event, what he knows of during the event. I would say it is also unique in the sense of, we know that Sergeant Bergdahl was the only service member held in Afghanistan. And thus we know he had no contact with other service members, thus denied the benefit of some type of affiliation with other U.S. service members in captivity.

BLOCK: So that's Army Colonel Bradley Poppen there at the briefing, speaking to reporters in San Antonio. Wade, did they give any idea of when Bowe Bergdahl would be reunited with his family?

GOODWYN: Well, the only thing that became clear is that they're going to leave that up to him to decide when he wants to see his parents. And he hasn't asked for them yet. His parents were taught to be prepared for something like this. They've been working with a support team since their son was captured. So, you know, it proceeds slowly.

BLOCK: Well, there has been a lot of controversy, of course, about the circumstances of Sergeant Bergdahl's capture, and then his release in exchange for five Taliban members. What do we know that he's been told about that, if anything?

GOODWYN: He knows nothing. There's no TV in his hospital room here. And it doesn't sound as if there's going to be one for quite a while. So he's blissfully unaware of the political circus that has surrounded his capture. He got off the plane and walked into the hangar and made his way into Brooke Army Center, showered and rested, and he's probably going to be here for months.

BLOCK: OK, NPR's Wade Goodwyn, speaking with us from San Antonio. Wade, thanks very much.

GOODWYN: It's my pleasure.

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