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Bowe Bergdahl will no longer be automatically promoted to staff sergeant later this month now that he is back in the hands of the U.S. military, senior officials said.
The freed soldier will have to compete for his next promotion like all other sergeants in the Army, according to senior U.S. military officials.
Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for five years before he was released to U.S. forces in exchange for five Taliban commanders, was a Private First Class when he went missing in 2009. He was automatically promoted twice while in captivity. He was promoted to the rank of specialist in June 2010 and then sergeant in June 2011.
If he was still in captivity, he would have automatically been promoted again within a couple of weeks.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Associated Press this week that Bergdahl's promotion to staff sergeant is no longer automatic because the soldier is no longer missing in action and job performance is now taken into account.
Service members who are missing in action routinely continue to be promoted on the same schedule as their peers.
But Bergdahl's "status has now changed," Dempsey told the AP, "and therefore the requirements for promotion are more consistent with normal duty status."
Consequently, Dempsey told the wire service, other criteria for promotion — such as proper levels of education and job performance — would now apply, making Bergdahl's promotion less automatic.
Bergdahl was returned to American forces over the weekend and is recovering at an American military hospital in Germany.
The trade for the five Taliban commanders at Guantanamo has sparked fierce criticism from Capitol Hill and inside the military. Former members of Bergdahl’s platoon have described him as a deserter who walked away from his outpost.
Some members of Congress have faulted the Obama administration — even suggesting that it broke the law — for failing to notify Congress before it executed the trade.