The Truth: What Happens When You Go AWOL
What You Don't Know About Being AWOL
AWOL (Absent Without Leave) this is the United States Military term for a soldier that has abandoned his place of duty. Everyone knows what this is if they didn't before they definitely knew about it after a particular movie came out about it.
I'm going to tell you what most people do not know about being AWOL, what happens (the process), what it means to the soldier, punishments, and who it really affects.
This article is meant to be informative. In no way is this condoning AWOL or glorifying the issue. This is meant to inform the general public of a real, but otherwise unheard of offense.
If you are reading this and you are AWOL, my advice to you would be to turn your self into the nearest military installation. If you can, go back to the unit that you went AWOL from as soon as you can.
What it Means To the Soldier
When you decide to go AWOL you decide to leave your place of duty for more than 24 hours. Before you can even be listed as AWOL you must be away from your place of duty for 24 hours and one minute past the hour. So if you were supposed to show up for morning physical training at 0600 and you never arrived and you still have not returned to work after 0601, you will be considered AWOL.
Your unit will report you missing to the local financial office and the Military Police station. A report will be done on you and you will be considered AWOL until you either turn yourself in or you are apprehended by civilian authorities.
Now each Military installation has its own AWOL Apprehension unit in some way, shape, or form. This is where your unit that you went AWOL from reports you being gone too.
The first initial report will be after 24 hours no more and no less. The second report that will be done will be for the charge of desertion. The military considers you a deserter after a certain period of time, and that time period is defined as the soldier being gone for a total of thirty consecutive days. A warrant for your arrest will also be issued, so if you are driving and you get pulled over you will be arrested, and you will sit in the county jail until you can be picked up by the closest military authorities.
Also, if your unit knows where you are and you are under the thirty-day mark they can inform the MP station to tell them where you are. The MP's will coordinate with local law enforcement to come and pick you up without a warrant. Now, the local law enforcement has to agree to cooperate with the MP's, given that the MP's do not have authority off the post.
Your unit also files paperwork with the local financial office, to stop your pay as soon as you go AWOL.
I will tell you now it is better for you if you turn yourself in. If you are picked up by civilian authorities the punishment you will receive will be worse.
You could serve up to a maximum of 1 year or later. Be separated out of the Army on a bad conduct discharge or receive a dishonorable discharge.
Overall the person that will say if they want to pursue charges or not is the Company Commander of your unit. They could pursue the max punishment or and Article 15 Field Grade or Company Level.
Who It Really Effects
I have had the unwanted pleasure of working with this close hand. This offense hurts the soldier's family more than the soldier him/herself. The family is the one who receives phone calls asking where you are. They are subject to accessory if they hide you. They are the ones who feel hurt if you are put in jail. When you lose your pay they will feel the blunt of it.
You may find a job after you go AWOL, but sooner or later that warrant will catch up with you and you will be forced to do things you do not want to do. You will be yanked from the new life you built and your family is the ones left in the wind with a gaping mouth and a confused look wondering if you will be back.
If you are lucky you will serve a minimal amount of time, but I have seen families go broke because of this offense. Again if you are AWOL turn yourself in, get it over and done with the faster you are done the better it is for you and your family.
This article is an overview of what could happen. The overall judge of your fate is your current Company Commander and the United States Military Court System.
Questions & Answers
© 2010 James Wassinger