AWOL combat veteran turned war protestor faces uncertain fate

Sgt. Micah Turner

This post has been updated below.

Late Sunday night Sgt. Micah Turner, an active-duty soldier deployed multiple times to Afghanistan,  surrendered to authorities at Fort Hamilton after being absent from his unit for more than a month.
He had abandoned his post on September 7, and as of today, would have been officially considered a deserter.

The day before in Washington, DC, Sgt. Turner, 24, risked immediate arrest by revealing his status as a soldier absent without leave (AWOL) and publicly stating his opposition to the war in Afghanistan. Today he joined Veterans for Peace in New York and again spoke out against the war, saying that what was happening to soldiers and citizens in Afghanistan was a tragedy. Then he drove with supporters to the gates of Fort Hamilton near New York City and surrendered to military authorities.

“The Army tells us to be people of integrity, personal courage, and duty,” he said. “As a person of courage, it is my duty to dissent.”

He walked away from his post 31 days ago. Saturday at Freedom Plaza, he said, “As of today I am officially designated AWOL.” He wore his Class A uniform blouse, “Army greens” and stood in front of a line of supporters who held “No More War” posters. The announcement was livestreamed over the internet to large audiences.

He has served five years in the Army, only one year short of his six-year commitment, and has been deployed to Iraq once and Afghanistan three times. His assignment was in PSYOPs, which, according to the Army Field Manual, uses manipulative techniques “to influence foreign target emotions, motives, objective reasoning” to achieve the goals of a military mission. Sgt. Turner’s 6-year obligation to serve in the Army would have ended with an honorable discharge had he not gone AWOL.

During his most recent deployment to Afghanistan, his feelings about the 12 year-long war began to change. He recently became active in the Occupy movement. He also participated in the Occupy DC anniversary protests and the Veterans for Peace rally and vigil in front of the Veterans Administration.

Sgt. Turner will have a long legal road ahead of him before he knows his fate. He may be tried by court martial with the possibility of losing his rank and all pay and benefits. It could take years before the final disposition of his case is adjudicated by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

Sgt. Turner speaks to media about his reasons for going AWOL.

UPDATE 10/8/12: According to Sgt. Turner’s twitter account, authorities at Fort Hamilton released him last night after he turned himself in and requested that he come back in the morning. He returned to Fort Hamilton at 8am and once again was released, because today is a federal holiday, Columbus Day, and no military detectives are working.

He’s currently considering his options, including seeking Conscientious Objector status.

Video of Sgt. Turner speaking in New York at Veterans for Peace Vigil on October 7:


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