It is not uncommon for employees to be absent without leave (AWOL) in workplaces; the military is no exemption. In the military it’s also known as “UA” or Unauthorized Absence. There is also a variation in the Navy when a crewman is left behind by his ship when it leaves port called, ‘Missing Movement.”

As the name suggests, AWOL means you are Absent WithOut Leave without notification or permission from your employer, be it by being late by one minute or not coming to work in a week. Aside from receiving written notice or getting a word or two from your boss, going AWOL is not that big of a deal in some workplaces. Unless you’re going AWOL from the military, then that’s a whole different story.

It’s a BIG deal

So, you enlisted and have already taken an oath to serve and defend our nation, and then you realized you didn’t want to push forward. Meh, it’s probably no biggie. Yes, it is. Technically, leaving your post for 30 minutes without permission or showing up 15 minutes late for formation is already considered AWOL. Most of the time, when people say AWOL, they are actually referring to desertion. According to Mark Weitz, desertion is defined as “leaving the military with the intent not to return.” In the military, someone who has been AWOL for 30 days is considered to have deserted from the military. In fact, desertion was a huge problem during the American Civil War, with over 103,000 confederate soldiers and about 200,000 union soldiers deserted.

WWI soldiers.

When are service members considered AWOL?

According to, these are the ways that a service member may be considered AWOL: