A legal question about AWOL

I have a friend who just went into the US Army. The man has the worst luck of anyone in the world, and I already know that he is going to Iraq for a term of at least a year. Knowing that his luck is terrible, and that he is going to get shot and probably killed, how many days can an enlisted serviceman in the US Army go AWOL without incurring the wrath of a court martial?

Pursuant to this question…

My friends job in the army is as a combat mechanic. He is going to go out, recover broken or shot-up vehicles and either fix them on the site, or tow them in for over-haul. The enemy will know that he is coming, and they will set up an ambush. So are there any people out there who are familliar with such ambush tactics, and how to negotiate them?

So, are you asking if he can go AWOL for 1 day and then show up saying “Just kidding!”?

AWOL is Absent WithOut Leave. One day of absence is still punishable under the UCMJ.

If his unit is deploying to a war zone and he doesn’t show up he can be charged with desertion. Go here to read up on what desertion is and the punishment involved.

For those non-linker-clicker-Dopers:


More detail about avoiding the action:

Now for the punishment part:

Notice that last part about “In time of war”. Yes, deserters in war have been shot. I haven’t heard of any recently, but then again I haven’t heard of any deserters and it’s not something that the military trumpets and wants put on the front page.

So, if your friend deserts his unit the BEST he can hope for is a dishonorable discharge and five years in jail.

Is this really worth risking because he has “bad luck”?

Upon preview, you have added what your friend is doing.

Good God, do you assume that your friend is going to be wearing an Iraqi homing beacon? How do you KNOW that he will be ambushed? And do you honestly think that info from an internet message board about ambushes will be better than the training he receives in the Army?

Let me see, the Republic needs soldiers but for some reason your friend shouldn’t be one? Frankly I cannot follow your logic.

Your buddy is doing a dirty, nasty job that has to be done. You should be encouraging him. Heck if you are able, you should be doing it yourself.

I am not trying to troll or to irritate you. I am serious.

You friend is doing his bit to (in some small way) serve the country, the civilization, that has given you both so much. He is carrying his part of the burden.

It is a noble thing he (or she) is doing.

You negotiate such a sitiuation with a tank and a squad of heavily armed Marines.

Your friend joined the military. Your friend made the deal with the government: steady paycheck, skills training, benefits, etc… In return, your friend agreed to be used as the military needed, including participating in an armed conflict.

I understand you are worried about your friend; I worry about my brother all the time when he deploys to the desert. But your friend knew what he was doing when he joined, and he certainly discovered the risk of being a combat mechanic or engineer when he went through training.

Avoiding his duty would make him less of a person. Avoiding it because he is afraid he might get shot is one definition of cowardice.

A military member can be AWOL without punishment if it was unintentional and not a pattern of behavior. It’s up to his or her superiors. Not all crimes have to be punished. But under the UCMJ, missing a formation or missing movement (unit going from point a to point b) are also illegal and more commonly punished.

Desertion charges are rare. Desertion assumes the member did not intend to return to his or her unit.

But if your friend intentionally avoids his duty, especially if his duty is in support of armed conflict or a deployment, he will be punished. Probably not shot, but certainly held with a reduction in pay if not jailed or imprisoned.

Your friend made his choice. You do him no favors suggesting he go AWOL and he probably wouldn’t appreciate the advice, anyway.

Have you talked to him about it? He might want to deploy.

I wasn’t a big fan of the idea of being in a hostile fire zone, but I wanted to deploy. It felt wrong to me that Reserve and Guard units were being activated but I, on active duty, hadn’t once been deployed. It’s hard to explain. It has something to do with not shirking duty and holding up your end of the bargain.

Send him postcards. Send him baby wipes. Send him local newspapers. Send him honeybun pastries. Don’t send him suggestions that will get him in trouble if he follows them.

One would think that the Army, rather than a bunch of knuckleheads on the Internet (myself included), would be the best source for this information.

Is calling someone who chooses not to join the military or who has joined and doesn’t want to go into a combat situation a “coward” and “less of a person” in GQ a violation of board rules either against wrong-forum flaming or injecting politics into GQ? Either way, personally I find it inappropriate.

Without knowing anything further of this person’s circumstances, an alternative to going AWOL, (which is as has been noted illegal and will get him in trouble) is to declare himself a conscientious objector. I do not know anything of the process for doing so or what qualifies one as a CO but it is a route he can explore. There are those who will continue to label him a “coward” should he seek this route. I will refrain from expressing my opinion of such people for fear of doing violence to the rules of the SDMB.

Sorry, otto, I guess that wasn’t clear. I wasn’t referring to someone who had not joined the military and didn’t want to go into a combat situation.

I was referring to someone who had joined the military and went AWOL to avoid combat. That would make them less of a person and smack highly of cowardice.

Nothing was in the OP to suggest the friend was a conscientious objector. Even if he was, his duty can still take him into a combat zone (witness countless medics and chaplains, many of whom served with distinction and honor without killing the enemy or shirking their duty). Conscientious objectors are not cowards and aren’t considered cowardly. Conscientious objectors sticking to their principles in a war zone are heroes and recognized as such.

Wasn’t flaming anyone. Apologize if it sounded like that. But when you enlist in the military and take your oath, you agree to serve even if it is scary.

And I wasn’t calling the friend a coward. I was calling the proposed behavior cowardly. I doubt the friend is looking to hide from his duty.

Still not flaming. Just pretend this post ends with the appropriate combination of smileys to sooth your sensitive skin.

If he plans before the unit departs to NOT go, and they go and he stays by some form of avoidance or trickery, he very very likely would be tried and convicted by Court Martial of Article 80 (Attempts), Article 86 (Absent without Leave), and Article 87 (Missing Movement), possibly Article 90 (Assaulting or willfully disobeying superior commissioned officer), plus many a few others, facing up to and including Dishonorable Discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 2 years.

If your friend truly does decide to go AWOL, then he does face all four of those Articles from the UCMJ that UncleBill posted. He’d be damn lucky if they only go after him with one or two of those Articles and not all four, but lately, they’ve been cracking down, and he’d get the entire book thrown at him.

If your friend doesn’t want to go to Iraq simply because he has bad luck, then he never should have joined the Military, end of discussion. Seriously. I have a Cousin who’s already done two tours close to Baghdad, you don’t think we’d rather have him here at home, where he’s safe? But he joined the Military, he joined the Army knowing full well that in the case of war, he would quite possibly be sent in. Joining the Military isn’t a decision one should make lightly.

My husband is enlisted in the Navy. We’re currently stationed at the Naval Weapons Station in South Carolina, where my husband attends Nuclear Power School. You think I enjoy the idea of having my husband gone 6 months at a time? Deployed on a Nuclear Carrier, and possibly gone even longer than 6 months? Knowing that when we have children, they aren’t always going to remember who exactly Daddy is? Of course not. But I would never allow him to not fulfill his duty to his Country, or fulfill the contract he signed with the US Government.

My Cousin has been shot at numerous times, and in fact, had to replace his helmet, he had that many bullet holes in it. That scares the shit out of me. I’m luckier then most in the aspect that my Husband won’t neccesarily see combat himself, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be in danger. Anyone remember the USS Cole? People died there because no one was paying “attention to detail”. It’s scary, but these men know what they’re getting involved in when they join up, and if they change their mind in the meantime, or sign thinking they won’t ever have to worry about war, then that’s just too damn bad. They need to go out, find some courage, and fulfill their duty.

Welcome aboards, AislingRhiannon.

“The man has the worst luck of anyone in the world, and I already know that he is going to Iraq for a term of at least a year. Knowing that his luck is terrible”

If this statement is true, well, expect him to do badly regardless. He will probably get killed in a car wreck on his way back home for instance.

If it’s invalid, his chances are a good or bad as the next soldier’s.

Actually, there’s a third option. I have known people who did get a lot of bad luck. It seemed to me they usually had erroneous thought processes, like “I will join the army but no one will shoot at me” or “I will walk across that intersection while drunk” or “I can postpone the problem with my car, it won’t make me late to work and get me fired.”

A friend can do this person a world of good, not by buying into the bad-luck concept, but by tactfully and clearly giving a steer toward reality at strategic times.

And I should say, it does look as if a combat mechanic in that position is in real danger. But please remember that, depressing as the news from Iraq is, most American soldiers in Iraq are surviving just fine.

His best bet is to be in a good unit, and he needs to be alert and ready to do his part, jump to do what’s required, and trust his buds to do theirs.

I suppose that I should add, that I do not want him to desert. He did join the Army of his own volition, and we both knew they would send him to Iraq. Hence, on the front end of the deal, we knew he would be going in to risk his life. So we both expect him to go and do his duty for his country.

Now that the issue of desertion is cleared up, what can be done to keep him state-side for even a few more days?

Ficer67 thanks for at least showing back up in this thread.

But now you are talking about preserving a few more days for your friend stateside…as opposed to what?

Do you think that if your friend manages to stay here until the (for example) end of December that his problems will all be gone?

For the record, we will be in Iraq for a very long time. Your friend can expect to serve there at least once in his career. The longer you delay him serving, the longer it is until he gets back.

If his unit is scheduled to deploy to Iraq and he doesn’t go…see all of the above threads.

Your concern for your friend is admirable, but at sometime you have to let them go…

Let him live his own life…

As an Army officer, I can tell you that I personally would throw the book at a soldier who willfully missed movement because we were going on a dangerous mission. It’s one thing to go AWOL for a few days during normal business…that usually only merits an Article 15 (which will usually reduce the soldier in rank and take half of pay for a month or two, depending on what you want to do). However, going AWOL such that you miss movement…that’s pretty much a guaranteed court-martial…and as UncleBill said, he’s likely to get charged with a butt-load of articles. The UCMJ is not kind to those who shirk their responsibility in time of war. The thing is…if he just recently joined the Army, didn’t he realize that we were at war with Iraq?

I have been lucky enough to not be tagged for deployment to the desert as of yet. If I get tagged to go for this next rotation, it will suck. I will hate having to leave my wife for a year and go sit in a desert with people who don’t like us. However, I knew what the Army was about, and I have a duty and an obligation to lead my soldiers into battle the best I know how. Your friend has that obligation. When he signed up, he pledged to defend his country and obey the orders of the officers appointed over him. He needs to simply do it.

That said, do realize that 99.7% of people who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom are still alive. The chances are not that high that he will be killed.

For information on how your friend can be AWOL or a deserter without these crimes affecting his career, send a SASE to;

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500

Pilot141, thanks for clueing me in as to how deployment works. Knowing that anything which keeps him here for even a day will only delay his return changes things dramatically. That being said, you should have pointed this out to me earlier in the thread.

The rest of you morons need to remember that the general questions forum is for factual and legitimate responses to factual and legitimate questions. Take your smart-assed remarks, and “Used-Car Salesman” opinions to the Bar-b-Que pit, or another forum.

Now wait just a minute, Ficer67. You ask a question about breaking clear and well-documented rules on behalf of a friend without saying why you want this information. You give no sign of your motivations, whether your friend is considering this, or you are thinking of suggesting it to him. Then you ask for advice on avoiding ambushes in Iraq, information which, as Ravenman points out, we Dopers are unlikely to to be able to provide.

A bunch of posters point you to those clear and well-documented rules and suggest that a volunteer shouldn’t be thinking about ways to get out of a commitment he has made.

And then you get all snarky and start calling people morons for not answering your questions? Posters here have by and large been thoughtful and informative in light of your somewhat vague queries. You are the one breaking the rules and making smart-ass remarks.