- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 4, 2016

The first woman in Tennessee and the fourth in the nation to enlist as a combat engineer in the Army went AWOL last month and is now considered a deserter, according to a military spokesperson.

Erika Lopez made headlines in July when she enlisted for a role that could put her on the front lines of battle, just after the U.S. Army lifted its ban on women in combat roles.

Ms. Lopez was in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, by September but was placed on convalescent leave by the end of the year, according to a local CBS affiliate.

Ms. Lopes was scheduled to return from leave on Jan. 4 but did not show up. She was reported AWOL on Jan. 5, CBS reported. 

“After 30 days in an AWOL status, a soldier is considered a deserter and a federal warrant is issued for his or her arrest,” Army spokeswoman Tiffany Wood said.

Once arrested, Ms. Lopez would be taken to the nearest military installments and handed over to military police, Ms. Wood said.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced in December that he would open all military combat roles across all services to women, a move that was met with some backlash after a massive Marine report indicated that mixed-gender units tend to have lower performance levels in battlefield situations.

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