BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Six months ago, Capt. Robert Przybylski’s whereabouts were a mystery.

On Oct. 10, the Baumholder-based company commander inexplicably went absent without leave, confounding the local authorities, who launched a series of radio and TV announcements on American Forces Network in the hope of persuading the captain to return home. Przybylski, who eventually did turn himself in, now stands accused of desertion.

But months after being charged, his case remains in legal limbo. No Article 32 has been held. Furthermore, Army officials in Europe would not say whether the captain is still in Baumholder or has taken residence someplace else. It also was unclear if Przybylski is performing any type of job while he awaits a court date.

“The Article 32, it’s still pending. It takes as long as it takes,” said Hilde Patton, a V Corps spokesman.

Regarding his current whereabouts and what prompted Przybylski to go AWOL in the first place, V Corps stated that legal restrictions prevent a discussion of the matter. However, information on the duties and whereabouts of other soldiers facing trial — whether or not they are in custody, for instance — are routinely given by the military in other cases.

Though it is rare for an officer to be counted among them, the Army’s desertion rate has been on the rise of late. In 2007 there were 4,698 deserters, which represent an 80 percent increase since the start of the war in Iraq, according to the military.

A soldier is typically classified as a deserter after being absent without leave for 30 days. In some cases, soldiers are court-martialed. In other cases, soldiers can be given a less than honorable discharge or simply be allowed to return to their unit.

Przybylski was initially scheduled for an Article 32 hearing on Dec. 14, but his defense counsel requested a delay in the proceeding.

The reason for the delay was not made public. Przybylski, through his attorney, also has declined to comment on his case. An Article 32 hearing will determine whether enough evidence exists against the accused officer to proceed to a court-martial.

On Nov. 9, Przybylski turned himself over to authorities, ending weeks of speculation on his whereabouts.

Przybylski was slated to return to Iraq this spring as an Iron Brigade company commander.

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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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