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A pair of soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team have been found guilty of missing their unit’s deployment to Afghanistan in recent courts-martial.

Both soldiers pleaded guilty and were given prison sentences and other punishments by a military judge in Vicenza, Italy.

In a court-martial that ended Oct. 15, Pfc. James Blanks, assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 173rd Brigade Support Battalion in Bamberg, Germany, was found guilty of being absent from his unit for 32 days.

Blanks was found to have left his unit on April 20 by failing to return from block leave, according to information provided by the Southern European Task Force (Airborne). His battalion left for Afghanistan on May 17, but Blanks didn’t return to Bamberg until May 21. He also was charged with disobeying the orders of a superior officer after returning to base. He briefly deployed to Afghanistan before traveling to Vicenza to face the charges.

Blanks was sentenced to forfeiture of $867 in pay per month for six months, six months of confinement and a bad-conduct discharge. He will only serve four months in prison as the result of a pretrial agreement.

In a September court-martial, Pvt. Jeffrey Gauntt, of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, pleaded guilty to missing the deployment, being absent without leave for 29 days and breaking restriction.

He left his unit on May 21 — the day before it deployed to Afghanistan — and surrendered to military authorities in Rota, Spain, on June 19. He never deployed to Afghanistan.

Gauntt was sentenced to forfeiture of all pay and allowances for a year, a year’s confinement and a dishonorable discharge. He will serve only 10 months of confinement as the result of a pretrial agreement.

Capt. Larry Babin, military prosecutor in Vicenza, said there are no other Italy-based soldiers facing similar charges.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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