BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Capt. Robert Przybylski, who went absent without leave from Baumholder, has retained defense counsel as Army officials continue to investigate why he left his post without notice in October.

Last week, a V Corps spokesman stated that it was premature to say what, if any, action is to be taken against Przybylski, who was on the brink of being classified as a deserter when he turned himself in on Nov. 9.

“The commander has to gather all the facts and complete his inquiry,” Maj. Rich Spiegel said.

On Oct. 10, Przybylski was listed as being AWOL after failing to report for duty. He had recently been named a company commander in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment.

However, his particular company was attached to the 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, which is commanded by Lt. Col. Rich Morales. An investigation packet compiled by CID will be reviewed by the commander as part of the investigation, Spiegel said.

“Every case is unique,” said Spiegel, explaining that he could not speculate about a likely course of action.

When it comes to methods for dealing with an AWOL soldier, the range of potential actions is broad. In some cases, soldiers are allowed to simply return to their units. In other cases, judicial action is taken.

Przybylski, through his defense counsel, declined to speak about his case, according to Spiegel.

While Przybylski’s case continues to puzzle, cases of AWOL are on the rise in the Army.

Last week The Associated Press reported that soldiers are deserting at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

While the numbers are far lower than they were during the Vietnam War, when the draft was in effect, they show a steady increase over the past four years and a 42 percent jump since last year.

“We’re asking a lot of soldiers these days,” Roy Wallace, director of plans and resources for Army personnel, told the AP. “They’re humans. They have all sorts of issues back home and other places like that. So, I’m sure it has to do with the stress of being a soldier.”

According to the Army, about nine in every 1,000 soldiers deserted in fiscal 2007, which ended Sept. 30, compared to nearly seven per 1,000 a year earlier. Overall, 4,698 soldiers deserted during the fiscal year, compared to 3,301 the previous one.

Before being assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Przybylski worked at the division level as a planning and integrations officer. In 2003, he was a lieutenant serving as an airborne scout platoon leader in Iraq.

While the investigation moves forward, Przybylski is back in Baumholder, where he is required to keep commanders informed of his whereabouts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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