AWOL soldier avoids return to Afghanistan


AWOL soldier Jeff Hanks speaks Nov. 11, 2010, in Oak Grove, Ky., across from the Fort Campbell Army post where he is assigned. Hanks said he walked away from the Army in the middle of a deployment to Afghanistan because his problems with anxiety and stress from combat have been ignored. On Veterans Day, he returned to face the consequences. (AP Photo / Robert Smith)

The Associated Press is reporting that an AWOL Fort Campbell soldier scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan has entered a mental health treatment program instead.

Spc. Jeff Hanks went AWOL last year while on mid-tour leave from Afghanistan. He turned himself in on Veterans Day.

Iraq Veterans Against the War took up his cause. In a press release, the group described Hanks as an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran “suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and likely Traumatic Brain Injury. He sought and was denied treatment on two military bases before refusing to redeploy and going Absent Without Official Leave in order to get civilian medical attention.” It solicited e-mails on Hanks’ behalf, and provided a link to the e-mail address of “Captain Jason Ambrosino, the commander responsible for denying Jeff Hanks’ medical treatment.”

The group has the Army at a disadvantage, as the service is prevented by law from discussing its decisions and subsequent actions. As such, only one side to this story is being heard: That of the 30-year-old soldier who said he had behavioral health issues resulting from his deployments, as well as a concussion, and said the treatment provided by the Army was lacking.

But it is no secret that such treatment is indeed lacking across the Defense Department. Whether Hanks’ actions were caused by or necessary to overcome and behavioral health issues remains to be seen.

His command ordered him to return to Afghanistan to finish out his deployment, but he is now at Cumberland Hall, a residential treatment program in Hopkinsville, Ky., his wife told the AP.

Iraq Veterans Against the War said in a release that Hanks’ commander received 2,000 emails, the group’s Operation Recovery Team at Fort Campbell “spent all day Saturday delivering copies of the Article 138 redress request to Jeff’s Division Command office and the Army Behavioral Health clinic that failed to treat Jeff,” and “distributed flyers to every room of the Barracks on Fort Campbell.”

No doubt this matter is far from over.

What are your thoughts?


About Author

A Navy brat who spent eight years in the Marines (two years aboard the carrier Independence). Worked in journalism in Eastern North Carolina through the latter part of the 90s, then became editor of Air Force Times in 2000. Stayed there five years, then took a break to finish some school. Now back in the game with Navy Times.

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  1. Rodney Dickhute on

    Apparently they are agreeing that his treatment wasn’t satisfactory or the young man would be in the brigg for being AWOL for as long as he was. I guess the treatment he is now receiving is to prove one way or another he is actually suffering from PTSD, shouldn’t they have done that to start with, sounds like they are trying to cover their tracks to me. You never know, he may have saved peoples lives by not going over there when ordered, he could really be suffering PTSD and ended up turning on his own. Can’t wait to hear how it turns out!

  2. another example of a left wing organization manipulating the truth in order to further a poltically charged goal, in this case the anti war movement. I have it on good authority that Hanks was pending a significant disciplinary action for his awol, was provided with the medical treatment and opinions of multiple doctors, requested to go back himself,and then balked on redeploying once these poisonous organizations got their claws in him again. I was in the military and I can assure you a company grade officer has very little ability to affect,definatately not dent medical treatment, providers aren’t even accountable to the command. The alleged facts with all this smell pretty fishy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the anti war groups instructed jeff to “have a nervous breakdown” if their efforts failed,which obviously they did. I feel bad for the CPT, seems he is the center of the spotlight and I have to really question how much of this he even has to do with.

  3. Mike Cavanaugh on

    Well regardless of the circumstances he should have returned to our unit. If everyone that had seen combat and received a concussion decided to not return, we wouldn’t have much of a Army. If he really needed help, he could have received it while on his tour, but conveniently he decided to wait until he was home. I don’t know ask the soldiers in his Platoon and Company how they feel about it. I am sure there would be a lot of colorful language to describe him

  4. anyone who has been in combat suffers from PTSD in some form or another. As with most stories of this nature there is probably another side of the story. Something conveniently left out by the accused and the Iraqi Veterens against the War. Good going Jeff, letting your unit down, I am sure they would of liked to have been able to slime their way out of going back as well. what will you think of yourself later……..was it worth it.

  5. I have deployed with the 101st 2 times to Iraq and I have friends that are on their 4th tour and my best friend is on his 9th!!!! There are so many opportunities to get help if you want it and you do not act like a piece of garbage. There is little doubt in my mind that this guy had other issues and chickened out his deployment like the rest.

  6. concerned citizen on

    I agree. When does the soldier become responsible to his duties? I can assure you that his cancellation of re-deployment had nothing to do with the organizations trying to get him help. If those organizations knew anything about military procedures they would know that his Read D Commander that everyone keeps emailing has no authority to keep him behind. He is only a Captain. Jeff Hanks went AWOL for almost 2 months….does that not cause for any concern? Numerous family members and friends have seen the worst of both Iraq and Afghanistan and I assure you, the only one to blame is this soldier. Treatment is available from the army and if he was cleared, as it is reported, then he should have put on his gear and went to finish his job and duty.

  7. This is another way a young man can find a way out of his obligation to the army. Their are many soldiers like him that look for a way out, either through a medical reason or a personal issue that would allow them to be dismissed without punishment. In this mans case he decided AWOL was his best strategy to get out without direct punishment. I’m sure that he will get some type of penalty but it will be dramatically lowered due to the legality that has placed himself. Well done young man.

  8. I don’t but this guy’s story at all. I have deployed 3 times and have seen my share of bad things and been in explosions. I like many soldiers including the one in questions had issues. I dealt with it as best as I could. eventually seeking out a chaplain, and then the combat stress team. I spoke to these people several times worked through my issues and continued the mission without ever missing a single mission or duty day. The help is there you just have to be man enough to seek it out and not run away from it.

  9. His rendezvous with destiny was to be a giant tool and coward. I guess all those lonely nights pulling chow hall guard were too much for this guy. It seems like he thinks that no one has been through war but him. At least he did a favor to his fellow soldiers, because they are not his comrades anymore, and got out of the way before he got a real solider killed.

  10. There was a time when this guy would have been considered a deserter versus a “victim”. It’s an affront to all the professional soldiers who meet their obligations with dignity and honor, something Spc Hanks clearly knows nothing about.

    Army 87-95

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