AWOL, or "Absent without Leave," is usually called "Unauthorized Absence" (or UA) by the Navy and Marine Corps, and AWOL by the Army and Air Force. The use of "UA" by the Navy/Marine Corps and "AWOL" by the Army/Air Force is historical. Prior to enactment of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 1951 the services were governed by separate laws. However, its official title under the current UCMJ is "AWOL" (a rose by any other name is still a rose). It simply means not being where you are supposed to be at the time you are supposed to be there. Being late for work is a violation of Article 86. Missing a medical appointment is a violation. So is disappearing for several days (or months, or years). The maximum possible punishments, which I'll discuss later in this article, depends on the exact circumstances of the absence.
Did you know that desertion can result in the death penalty? It's true. The maximum punishment for desertion during "time of war" is death. However, since the Civil War, only one American servicemember has ever been executed for desertion -- Private Eddie Slovik in 1945.
The offense of desertion, under Article 85 carries a much greater punishment than the offense of AWOL, under Article 86. Many people believe that if one is absent...