GI Rights Hotline

Military Discharges and Military Counseling

Call 1-877-447-4487

AWOL or UA from Active Duty


After you read this fact sheet, please call the Hotline (877-447-4487) to talk over your options with a counselor.

Army commands have a lot of discretion regarding the ways they handle differents situations involving Absence offenses (AWOL and Desertion). There are many factors that can influence consequences. GI Rights Hotline is aware that other sources online have posted oversimplifications of how such cases are handled sometimes leading to disappointment when actual outcomes are different than expected. (Sometimes outcomes are better than what was expected.) While there are some probabilities, our experience is that people in such situations need to know there are no guarantees or rules obligating the military to give the desired outcome. GI Rights counselors are available to discuss trends and considerations that may be useful in deciding how to resolve absences from the Army.

MCO P5800.16A MARINE CORPS MANUAL FOR LEGAL ADMINISTRATION (31 Aug 99 with changes through 10 Feb 2014) (4.2 MB)

Comments: To view or download the complete regulation, click on the link to it in the box above these comments.


1. If a Marine -

a. Is absent from the parent command without authority over 30 days; or

b. Is believed to have gone to or is remaining in a foreign country, and to have applied for or accepted any type of asylum or residency permit from such country, or any governmental agency thereof; or

c. Is an escaped prisoner (see paragraph 5012 for detailed instructions); or

d. Is reported as being in an unauthorized absence status who has had access to Top Secret information during the last 12 months; or

e. Whose location is known, Commanders may publish a DD Form 553 to ensure the Marine is apprehended with dispatch.

2. Then take the following actions -


d. Prepare and distribute the DD Form 553


(7) Immediately upon completion of the Signature Time/Date Block (entry (18f)), the DD Form 553 must be submitted electronically or by facsim ile to CMC (PSL) in order to comply with NCIC Operating Standards for "Warrants For Wanted Persons.” Due to guidelines set forth in the FBI, NCIC 2000 Operating Manual 1.1, a DD Form 553 must be entered into the NCIC terminal immediately or within a 5 hour time period from the date of signature.




3. Assignment of Marines Returning to Military Control

a. Absentees will remain on the rolls of their parent organization upon RMC. Deserters RMC will be assigned as delineated in Table 5-1. In cases involving special or unusual circumstances, CMC (PSL) is authorized to deviate from Table 5-1 and direct assignment to other commands.

b. Upon delivery of the Marine to the major command by crosscountry escorts, subsequent assignment within the command is a local matter. A major command is defined as one, which has a general courtmartial convening authority (GCMCA); a unit is defined as the specific battalion, squadron, etc.

c. Deserters who are RMC after an absence of less than 180 days will be returned to the major command from which absent. Deserters absent greater than 180 days, with the exception of those pending administrative or disciplinary action at the command from which absent, will be reassigned to the non-operating force major command nearest the point of apprehension or surrender, and based upon their location (i.e. East/West of Mississippi) as depicted in Note 2 of Table 5-1.

Comments: This regulation allows but does not require Marines absent 180 days to be discharged administratively at Quantico, Lejeune, Pendleton, Cherry Point, Miramar, Parris Island, or San Diego.

MCO 1900.16 (MARCORSEPMAN) (15 FEB 2019)

MCO 1900.16 (MARCORSEPMAN) (15 FEB 2019) (1.8 MB)

Comments: To view or download the complete regulation, click on the link to it in the box above these comments.


1. A Marine may be separated upon his or her request in lieu of trial by special or general court martial if charges have been preferred with respect to an offense for which a punitive discharge is authorized and it is determined that the Marine is unqualified for further military service. This provision may not be used as a basis for separation when the current version of reference (am) Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM) Rules for Court-Martial (RCM) 1003(d), provides the sole basis for a punitive discharge unless the charges have been referred to a court-martial authorized to adjudge a punitive discharge.

Comments: This regulation allows but does not require Marines to be discharged administratively instead (Latin: in lieu) of being court-martialed after an Unauthorized Absence.  Characterization of service will normally be Other Than Honorable.

2. Characterization of service normally shall be under other than honorable conditions, but characterization as general (under honorable conditions) may be warranted in some circumstances. Characterization as honorable is not authorized for a Marine who has completed entry level status unless the Marine's record is otherwise so meritorious that any other characterization clearly would be inappropriate. When characterization of service under other than honorable conditions is not warranted for a Marine in entry level status, the separation shall be described as uncharacterized.