My goal today is to educate you on how to deal with AWOL Soldiers in the Army National Guard. While most Soldiers strive to do the right thing, you will at one point or another have to deal with some problem Soldiers. And one of these problems is Soldiers not showing up for scheduled training: AWOL Soldiers.
To be an effective small unit leader, you need to get a grip on this fast. Here are some of my best tips to deal with AWOL and Soldiers and to minimize the number of AWOL Soldiers you have on your books. Let’s get started.
Tip # 1 Make Sure All of Your Soldiers Have a Copy of the Drill Schedule
This sounds simple, and it is. Make sure everyone you personally supervise, and everyone under your authority, has a copy of the drill schedule. Have a sign-in roster where everyone has to sign their name saying they received a copy of the drill schedule. This eliminates the most basic excuses.
Tip # 2 Call Your Soldiers Before Drill Weekend
Have all of your subordinates contact their direct reports 3-7 days before drill to remind them of the training, to inform them of the mission and game plan for the weekend, and answer any questions the Soldiers might have. This sounds like babysitting, but it’s really the process of COMMUNICATING!
Tip # 3 If Someone Is AWOL, Contact Them Immediately
Always give your Soldiers the benefit of the doubt. If someone does not show up for drill, don’t assume they are doing that intentionally. Give them a call to see if you can contact them. Ask your other Soldiers if they know where the Soldier might be. Call the Soldier’s cell phone, reach out to them on Facebook or call their spouse/next of kin to see if you can find out where they are.
Tip # 4 If You Can’t Get In Touch With the Soldier, Send Out an AWOL Recovery Team
If you can’t get in touch with the Soldier, send out an AWOL Recovery Team. Send out one NCO and one Soldier to the Soldier’s address on the Alert Roster. Knock on their door. Ask a neighbor if they have seen the person. If the Soldier is home, find out what is going on. If possible, get them to come back to the armory WITH YOU. If that’s not possible, tell them to report to the armory immediately.
Tip # 5 When You Do Get In Contact with the Soldier, Do a Formal Counseling Immediately
When the Soldier arrives at the armory, ask them what is going on. LISTEN to their response. Once that is done, conduct a formal counseling with them telling them you do not condone their behavior. Summarize what happened on a DA Form 4856 and tell them what will happen next.
Tip # 6 Recommend/Issue Your Punishment
At this point in the counseling, you will reveal your punishment. If you want formal punishment, you can recommend it to the commander. Personally, I would recommend a demotion for a first time AWOL. I would recommend a Bar to Reenlistment the second time around and a discharge or Bonus RECOOP the third time around. If a Soldier does not show up the entire drill weekend, make sure your AGR Staff sends out Certified Mail to the Soldier.
Tip # 7 Provide Tough, Fun and Challenging Training
Another simple and effective thing you can do is to provide tough, fun and challenging training at all times. Let’s face it, some units have boring training. No one joined the military to sit around the armory all drill weekend. Whenever possible, schedule training offsite and do fun and exciting things. Make your Soldiers WANT to come to drill weekend, not dread it.
In summary, these are seven helpful tips to deal with AWOL Soldiers in your unit. Hopefully, you won’t have this problem in your unit, but if you do, you now know what you need to do to resolve the issue.
Do you have anything you want to add to this post? Do you have any questions about dealing with AWOL soldiers? Please post your comments and questions below. Thank you.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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