U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl will reportedly return to active duty, just six weeks after being released from Taliban captivity after five years as a prisoner of war, Defense Department and military officials tell NBC.
After being initially treated in Germany, Bergdahl completed therapy and counseling at an Army hospital in San Antonio and will begin working a desk job at Fort Sam Houston. He'll be living in the barracks and two soldiers will reportedly help Bergdahl continue his transition into regular life, The New York Times noted.
The final stage of his reintegration is for Bergdahl to become a "regular soldier," a Defense Department official told NBC. When he's off-duty, he'll be allowed to move freely—on and off the base—for the first time since he was traded back into U.S. custody.
Many Republicans have criticized the prisoner trade that freed Bergdahl—he was released on May 31 in a prisoner exchange for five Taliban fighters—because of the circumstances that surrounded Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture. Upon his release, some of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers alleged that he deserted, leaving his fellow soldiers in danger as they searched for him and an initial, now classified, report found that he'd simply wandered off the base in 2009.
Bergdahl is expected to answer questions for the first time about what happened leading up to his capture by militants in Eastern Afghanistan. While the investigation is underway, the back pay and leave days he would have accrued while in captivity are on hold.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and President Obama have both defended the deal. Obama said he would make “no apologies” for the deal and at a Congressional hearing on June 11, Hagel said that while the administration “could have done a better job” keeping lawmakers informed, the deal was the right thing to do, "and we did it for the right reasons – to bring home one of our own people."
But one soldier's family—who blames Bergdahl for their son's death—said Monday that they're furious about the return to active duty.
"This is another attempt to give credibility to a deserter to protect the decision to free five extremely dangerous Taliban," Sondra Andrews, the mother of 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, told NBC News. Andrews was killed in eastern Afghanistan in September 2009 when, the family said, he was searching for Bergdahl.
Bergdahl’s parents released a statement last month through the Idaho National Guard saying they were “overjoyed” to have their son back and asking for privacy while he recovers from the trauma of captivity. The family has avoided the spotlight since the Rose Garden announcement of Bergdahl’s rescue and military officials declined to tell NBC whether Bergdahl has been in contact with his family.