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What does it mean to go AWOL?

On Behalf of | Jul 27, 2022 | Military Law

In the military, there is a term called “AWOL.” It means to go “absent without leave.”

Going AWOL is a problem for military members, because it means that they have left their posts without permission. While going AWOL is less serious than desertion, it is still an issue that could lead to significant repercussions.

What do you need to do if you’re AWOL?

Normally, if you have gone AWOL, you should consider turning yourself in at the nearest military base as soon as possible. If possible, return to your own unit. Depending on how long you’ve been gone, the time you’ve been away may not be enough to constitute going AWOL. For example, if you were gone for only half a day without permission, you may not yet be listed as AWOL.

AWOL cases usually involve being away for 24 hours or more without permission. This is bad enough, but if you decide to stay away for 30 days or longer, then you could be charged with desertion. Desertion charges are much more significant and can lead to an arrest.

What kinds of penalties could you face for going AWOL?

Depending on how long you were gone and other elements involved in the case, you could be:

  • Dishonorably discharged.
  • Told to forfeit all pay and allowances.
  • Confined for one or two years (one for neglect or two for purposeful abandonment).
  • Reduced to the lowest enlisted grade.
  • Have a bad-conduct discharge.
  • Forfeiture of two-thirds of your pay for a month.

These are just a few of the options the military may consider using as penalties.

Whether you intended to desert the military or not, you deserve support if you’re accused of going AWOL

Everyone’s circumstances are different. If you are facing AWOL charges, desertion charges or others associated with not being where you were supposed to be at the right time, you deserve an opportunity to defend yourself. Not every person who goes AWOL does so intentionally, and there may be extenuating circumstances that would allow the case against you to be dropped, so you can get back to your life without unreasonable penalties.