Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl plans to leave the Army and attend college if he is cleared of potential desertion charges following the Army's investigation into his capture in Afghanistan, Bergdahl's lawyer said Tuesday.
Bergdahl would be eligible for college funding under the GI Bill if he received an honorable discharge, but his lawyer declined comment on the issue of GI Bill eligibility.
"He's ready to move on" as a civilian, said Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl's attorney. "We're hoping for the best. College education is in the cards for him."
Fidell played down the significance of a delay announced Tuesday by the Army in completion of the initial Article 15-6 investigation on the circumstances of Bergdahl leaving his post before he was captured by the Taliban.
The investigating officer, Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, had been expected to complete his work in mid-August but the Army said that his report will now likely be filed in September.
"As the investigating officer works through this final stage, it is possible that he will have to follow up on issues that may require additional witness interviews," the Army said in a statement.
"It's no big thing," Fidell said of the delay. "We're just hoping all the facts come out."
He speculated that Dahl was "tying up loose ends" before completing his investigation and making recommendations to superiors, who will have to decide whether to pursue court martial charges.
Once Dahl's report is complete, it will be subject to a legal review that could further delay a decision on Bergdahl's fate.
Dahl had the task of establishing the facts behind Bergdahl's disappearance on June 30, 2009, from his post in Afghanistan's southeastern Paktika province. Bergdahl had arrived in Afghanistan a month earlier and was serving with the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
The 28-year-old Bergdahl spent nearly five years in Taliban captivity and was released on May 31 in a controversial exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.
Since his release, several soldiers who served with Bergdahl have come forward to charge that he left his post voluntarily. They also have charged that several soldiers were killed or wounded in search operations for Bergdahl.
After the prisoner exchange, Bergdahl was taken to Germany and then to the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas where he was treated by Army medical and psychological teams. He has since been assigned administrative duties at Fort Sam Houston in Texas and lives without restrictions at the non-commissioned officers' quarters, according to the Army.
From the time of his release in May until Aug. 6, Bergdahl was not read his rights to remain silent and to have a lawyer. He was read his rights by Dahl at the start of two days of questioning on Aug. 6, according to the Army and Fidell.
Fidell said that Bergdahl was cooperative in the interviews and answered all of Dahl's questions, but Fidell added that the delay in the reading of rights "could be a factor" if the Army pursues criminal charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Update: An earlier version incorrectly said Bergdahl planned to use the GI Bill. He has not made that decision yet, his lawyer said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org