Legal Question in Military Law in Maryland

Awol during AIT

My brother went Awol during AIT, we contacted the GI Rights Hotline. They informed us that he should not return and wait the thirty days, then surrender himself at Ft. Sill, or Ft. Knox. Should he wait or does he need to return? How much trouble could he be in? Also, if how can we help him get out, the right way?

Asked on 1/03/07, 8:39 pm

4 Answers from Attorneys

Anthony DeWitt Bartimus, Frickleton Robertson & Gorny, PC

Re: Awol during AIT

Whoever gave you this advice is dead wrong. Once a soldier is gone 30 days the charge moves from AWOL to Desertion. Desertion during time of war is considered to be more serious than desertion in peace time, and the military has recently been very aggresive in dealing with deserters.

Your brother should immediately contact his AIT unit and tell them where he is and find out where the military wants him to go to turn himself in. He should refuse to make any statements to any person until he talks directly to a JAG officer who can advise him.

If the AWOL time is short, there is a good chance that the matter will be disposed of by Article 15, which is non-judicial punishment. It will sting, but it will not have the effect of being a federal conviction, which conviction by court martial is.

Organizations like the GI Bill of Rights may have political agendas that are furthered by deserters, and may not be giving you advice that is truly in the best interests of your brother. Return your brother to military control as soon as possible.

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Answered on 1/04/07, 9:43 am
James Matthew Branum James M. Branum, Attorney at Law

Re: Awol during AIT

Likely this information is too late to be of use to the questioner, but I do think it is important to correct some of the advice previously given.

An attorney cannot tell a client to break the law (which would include staying AWOL longer), however a lawyer should tell a client the consequences of possible actions, which is what I will be doing here.

If the soldier in question did turn himself in immediately, he would be following the law. He also would be screwed. He would be sent back to his AIT unit and likely would remain the Army. He might get an article 15, maybe a court-martial, but only if he is lucky will he be discharged.

If the soldier in question waited until he is dropped from the rolls (which takes at least 30 days, but sometimes takes longer --- to find out if a soldier is DFR'd, a soldier should call the GI Rights Hotline for instructions on how to call the Deserter Information Point) and if the soldier is in fact "PCF-eligible" (in most cases this means that the soldier did not finish AIT, but again you need to talk to a knowledgable attorney or a counselor with the GI RIghts Network to make sure), then the soldier can report to the PCF (Personnell Control Facility at Ft. Sill or Ft. Knox to be processed out of the Army.

The soldier will likely receive an OTH (Other than honorable discharge), HOWEVER (and this is a big whatever), a soldier has a good shot at a better discharge if he brings mitigation documentation to explain why he went AWOL. This documentation could include letters from the soldier, their family or friends, doctor's records, etc. Anything really that can document physical health, mental health, family hardship concerns.

In my experience PCF-eligbile soldiers who bring good documentation with them to Ft. Sill PCF (I don't know as much about Ft. Knox) have a really good shot at a better discharge (maybe an ELS or a general discharge), but if they go back empty handed they are almost guaranteed an OTH.

I hope this helps but remember there are lots of complicating details on the PCF process, which is why you should consult with a good and knowledgeable lawyer or the GI Rights hotline before acting up on this information.

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Answered on 10/11/07, 7:42 pm
Neal Puckett The Law Firm of Puckett and Faraj, PC

Re: Awol during AIT

Thank you for taking the time to write to, where you can get answers from attorneys who understand the military process. It is NEVER better to wait 30 days. That will end badly for him. If he avoids a court-martial, which is by NO means a certainty, the result will be an other than honorable discharge. That's something to avoid. It will mean no VA benefits of any kind, as well as disqualification from a whole host of educational and employment opportunities. He needs to return as soon as possible in order to minimize the severity of the consequences. He is welcome to contact me for more information.

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Answered on 1/03/07, 9:45 pm
Raymond Weicker Weicker Law, PLLC

Re: Awol during AIT

You should be aware that teh "GI Rights Hotline" is NOT a legal aid group, nor does it give accurate legal information -- they are a protest group and have no affiliation with the military or authority. Your brother should speak to a JAG Officer and should not allow himself to be used (abused) by a political protest group.

If your brother does not return, he will end up with a federal criminal warrant out for his arrest and could end up with a record (best case scenario, he gets a bad discharge from the military and has to report this every time he applies for a job).

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Answered on 1/08/07, 6:23 pm

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