WASHINGTON - Doctors treating Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are allowing him to pick where to go on daily trips to help him regain confidence in making his own decisions after years of life as a Taliban hostage.
Bergdahl, the Hailey soldier held captive for five years in Afghanistan until he was traded May 31 for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo, has completed his U.S. military-led reintegration treatment and has been assigned to regular duty with a new Army unit in Texas.
The posting at U.S. Army North headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Houston will allow him to remain near the military doctors who've treated him through his reintegration process at San Antonio Military Medical Center.
He is likely to receive some leave time during his new posting, Pentagon officials said.
The military has not said what role Bergdahl's parents in Hailey, who led the public campaign for his release, have played in his treatment.
Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said he did not believe Bergdahl has seen his parents since his return to the United States. It is unclear if the lack of contact is because Bergdahl was not ready to speak to them or had chosen not to, and officials said the family has requested the matter remain private.
Army officials say Bergdahl has been allowed to go, with supervision, to a grocery store, restaurants, shopping centers and a library as part of the process of getting him comfortable with being out in public.
Bergdahl is "able to participate in the same on- and off-post opportunities as any other soldier," Don Manuszewski, an Army North spokesman, said Monday.
Bergdahl's exact administrative duties at U.S. Army North were not immediately disclosed, but Bergdahl is not restricted in any way, Warren said. The Army said that in his assignment to U.S. Army North he "can contribute to the mission," which is focused on homeland defense.
"He is a normal soldier now," Warren said.
Bergdahl's new assignment to a desk job with the military command responsible for activities in the United States will be his first opportunity to work alongside his fellow soldiers, some of whom have accused him of desertion, claiming that he left his post in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009 and that troops died searching for him after he was taken prisoner. His trade for the five Taliban at Guantanamo also brought angry denunciations from some members of Congress who opposed their release.
By now, Bergdahl likely is aware of the controversy that swirled around his release, though details of how he was introduced to events that took place during his captivity have not yet emerged. He has been in an outpatient program at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Houston since June 22 and has been seen at restaurants and shops around San Antonio, often accompanied by members of his medical team, who specialize in helping prisoners of war reintegrate into society.
As part of his reintegration, Bergdahl has spoken to other soldiers about his experiences while a Taliban prisoner, but the U.S. military has not provided any details of the circumstances behind his capture, citing an ongoing investigation led by Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl.
Bergdahl has not yet been interviewed by Dahl. Doctors who treated Bergdahl, citing patient confidentiality, have not shared with Dahl the contents of their conversations with Bergdahl.
Bergdahl has not commented publicly on the circumstances of his disappearance, and the Army has made no charges against him.
Numerous other questions linger, including whether Bergdahl will collect the estimated $300,000 in back pay he has accumulated over the past five years. Bergdahl was promoted from private first class to sergeant during his captivity.
According to a 2012 Rolling Stone article, Bergdahl sent an email to his parents in the days before his capture, expressing his disdain and disillusionment with his military commanders, saying he no longer believed in the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.
"The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be American. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting," he wrote to his family, according to Rolling Stone.
The Associated Press contributed.