Fact sheet: What's next for Bergdahl?

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - As of Sunday, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has arrived in Germany at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where he is continuing his reintegration process from capitivity in Afghanistan.

He is expected to return to the U.S. this week and be taken to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, which has experience treating POWs.

Military officials say there is no pre-determined amount of time for the process, but they did provide a fact sheet about the different phases a POW goes through once they are released:

Q: What is Reintegration?

Reintegration is a time proven process that when successfully executed, provides recovered personnel with the necessary tools to effectively resume normal, stable professional, family, and community activities, with minimal physical and emotional complications. It also provides important lessons that allow us to better prepare our war-fighters to survive and return with honor.

During Reintegration we gather necessary information while protecting the health and welfare of personnel.

There are 4 key areas of support to the reintegration process

Medical care- Documents the effects of captivity

Psychological support-Provides the returnee with the tools necessary to cope with post captivity stress.

Debriefings- Gathers critical information to develop lessons learned for future training.

Family Support-Assist the family with providing support to the returnee to ensure a smooth transition to normal life after captivity.

The Reintegration process is built and focuses around needs:

(1) A Returnee needs:

a. Medical Stabilization

b. Regain their ability to predict upcoming events

c. Establish a perception of control of their life

d. Tell their story in a health repeated manner

e. Have their emotions normalized

f. Develop a plan of action for dealing with events common to their circumstances.

g. Reengage in a healthy life style with family, socially and with work

(2) The Department of Defense needs:

a. Gather time sensitive intelligence (tactical / operational)

b. Gather strategic intelligence (operational planning)

c. Gather lessons learned (planning and training)

d. Maintain the force.

(3) US Government needs:

a. Gather time sensitive intelligence (Capture Criminals)

b. Gather Evidence (Prosecute Criminals)

c. Maintain viability of witness

d. Return US Citizen to their family

PHASE I Initial recovery: This normally occurs at a forward operating location within hours of recovery. Whether through deliberate military operations, diplomatic negotiations, or any other means, Phase I begins with return to friendly control. Phase I activities include medical triage, psychological support and tactical debriefing for time sensitive information.

PHASE II Decompression Location: The location is usually a regional hospital (Landstuhl). The returnee will receive more complete medical exams and formal, structured debriefings. The decompression process begins in earnest here. Typically, information obtained in the operations and intelligence debriefings is immediately disseminated.

An inherent and critical part of the reintegration process is the decompression period that has been established to maximize returnee health and welfare. This process normally requires a minimum of 72 hours to be effective. At least one physician and one psychologist specially trained in survival, escape, resistance, and evasion will accompany former POWs/captives when moving from one Phase to the next level of care.


Home Base: Family reunions, medical care, and final debriefings will occur in this Phase. The SERE psychologist will continue to monitor the reintegration process. If returnees are from a group detained together, Phase III is not complete until a group debriefing is completed. Upon completion of medical care and debriefings the returnee will be returned to duty. Families play a critical role in assisting the returnee in gaining control and predictability over their circumstances. The key is to include the family in the reintegration planning to ensure they understand the benefits of the process.

Q: How long does each of the Phases of Reintegration last?

There is no set timeline for any phase of reintegration. They are all custom events, fitted to the individual circumstances of the event. The number of returnees involved, the presence of significant medical injuries, distance and location from friendly forces, and availability of resources could all effect the plan. In general, Phase I is designed to be completed as quickly as positive control and initial triage can be completed. Phase II generally takes three or more days, as the decompression from captivity and the reestablishment of normal routines occurs. During Phase II a specific timeline for family reunions and return to a home station are developed. Phase III activities are also highly variable. Some returnees require little additional support; others have complicated medical or administrative processes to go through. Throughout all three Phases the activities are monitored by a specially trained SERE psychologist to make sure that the returnee is not overwhelmed and is allowed to return to normal functioning.

Q: Why is Reintegration performed by the military in this way?

At the end of the Vietnam War the U.S. military was faced with the sudden reintegration of hundreds of returned POWs. A multi-disciplinary, joint service effort was begun to prepare for the reintegration. One of the leaders of this effort was Captain Robert Mitchell, a Navy physician. He established a 5-year program to investigate the long-term effects of captivity on the Repatriated Vietnam POWs. Because of the meticulous way in which that original program was organized, the military collected many important lessons learned about how to conduct reintegration activities. Today, The Robert E. Mitchell Center for Prisoner of War Studies is the only surviving component of the original Center for Prisoner of War Studies. The Mitchell Center continues to investigate the long-term effects of captivity, and the reintegration lessons learned since 1973 are being integrated into the reintegration plans of all the U.S. military.

Q: What is "decompression"?

It is the process of normalizing psycho-physiological, emotional, and behavioral components of a person's response to hostile captivity, isolation, and degradation. Captives learn to survive an extremely traumatic ordeal, in doing so they may engage in mental and physical coping strategies from which they need to be "eased back" into their normal coping routines. A careful decompression period allows the former POW/captive to answer two important questions: "what really happened to me, and how well did I handle this ordeal?"

Q: Who is involved in a Reintegration event?

This is a very complicated joint operation involving hundreds of people. Operational planners, aircrews, medical professionals, security officers, attorneys, chaplains, and specialists in finance, personnel, public affairs, and logistics are involved in these operations. Family members also assist in the process, at first through phone contacts and later during family reunions. One of the lessons learned is to involve members of the returnees unit to personally assist the returnee in adjusting to their release from captivity.

The goal is to return an operationally stable individual back to duty.

Q: Can American Citizens be offered Department of Defense Reintegration?

Yes the United States has a National Policy on Post Captivity support for American Citizens. There are a couple of ways American Citizens can participate in the DOD Reintegration process.

1. The Combatant Commander can designate them a Person of Interest

2. The Department of State can request DOD assistance

3. Department of Justice (normally through the FBI Office for Victim Assistance) can request DOD assistance.

The National Policy for post captivity support requires a coordinated effort between, the Department of Defense, Department of State and Department of Justice to ensure recovered private American Citizens are made aware of the resources available to them from the United States Government to assist in their reintegration and the benefits that the reintegration process provides.