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Air Force officer transferred after going AWOL: report

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- An Air Force squadron leader has been transferred from his position as punishment after being found skipping his duty earlier this year, posing a serious threat to the nation's security, local media reported yesterday.

According to the Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily, the squadron leader surnamed Yue (樂), of the southern Chiayi-based Air Force 439th Wing, was found skipping his post mid-March when he was supposed to be on duty.

Yue was the head of the wing's S-2T anti-submarine aircraft squadron that is responsible for maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare in response to a possible Chinese invasion.

Without informing his superior, Yue returned to his home while he was supposed to be on standby mode as a pilot in case the S-2T anti-submarine aircraft squadron needed to be dispatched, the report quoted sources as saying.

Yue is charged with “absent without leave” (AWOL), an offense that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment during wartime under the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍刑法). He could face a one-year jail term under the charges during peacetime, the report said.

However, the Air Force Command gave a relatively lenient punishment to Yue, demoting him from his commanding post in the squadron to a post in the command headquarters, the report said. He was also given two demerits.

The lenient punishment was criticized by lawmakers of both parties who said that Yue should be given a harsher punishment to serve as a deterrent.

Ruling Kuomintang legislator Ma Wen-chun (馬文君) said that as a pilot who was standing by for a flight mission, Yue should have known better than to skip his post.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) said the Air Force could hardly maintain discipline by handing out such a light punishment to the squadron leader.

Air Force's Comments

In response to the accusations, the Air Force Command told the newspaper that Yue did not go absent without leave because he told a peer that he would be leaving his post and returning home for personal reasons.

However, he did not file an application to the squadron to find someone to replace him as a standby pilot, which is against regulations.

Taiwan now has a squadron of 11 S-2T anti-submarine aircraft that have been in service in the country for over 40 years, according to the Air Force.

To replace the aging fleet, the military has received three of a dozen total P-3C patrol aircraft so far to boost the R.O.C. Armed Forces' reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.

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