The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

June 6, 2014

Pentagon has protocol for returned captives

WASHINGTON (AP) — Once released from captivity, a soldier like Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl enters a series of debriefings and counseling sessions, all carefully orchestrated by the U.S. military, to ease the soldier back into normal life.

In military parlance, it's known as "reintegration," and Bergdahl, who spent five years as a captive of the Taliban under circumstances now hotly debated, is working his way through its early stages at a U.S. military hospital in Germany.

A look, in question and answer form, at how this process typically plays out:

Q. When does Bergdahl get to go home?

A. The short answer is, no one knows. Bergdahl has not even placed a phone call to his family, Pentagon officials say. Typically, a returned captive would spend from five days to three weeks in the phase of reintegration in which Bergdahl now finds himself at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, according to a Pentagon psychologist who is an expert in dealing with military members who have been released from captivity. The psychologist spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon.

Once Bergdahl is deemed ready to move on to the next phase of his decompression, he is expected to be flown to an Army medical center in San Antonio, where it is believed he will be reunited with his family.

Q. Why does it take so long?

A. Each case is different, and Bergdahl's is especially complicated. That is partly because he was in captivity for so long and partly because he has been — or soon will be — made aware of accusations that he deserted his post in Afghanistan and willingly sought out the Taliban in June 2009. The military psychologist who briefed reporters Thursday at the Pentagon said negative publicity can have the effect of "hugely" complicating the process of preparing a former captive or hostage for his return home. That would seem to suggest that Bergdahl faces a potentially lengthy reintegration, given the firestorm of criticism over the terms under which he was released and the accusations of disloyalty and other potential misbehavior.

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