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Deserter now back on active duty

Any puinishment still pending

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POSTED: February 11, 2009 4:36 p.m.
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Cliff Cornell moments before turning himself into Fort Stewart's military police.

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For the first time in four years, Army deserter Cliff Cornell is back to being a soldier.
Today, Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said that yesterday afternoon, after Cornell, 28, turned himself in to military police at the post, military officials began immediately in-processing him to become an active-duty soldier.
"He has been assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team," Larson said.
"He is getting a barracks space, drawing uniforms, getting a new ID and having his pay re-started," he added, "because for all intents and purposes he is once again a part of the 3rd Infantry Division."
Larson said Cornell, who deserted in 2005 after fleeing from orders to deploy to Iraq, would be treated with dignity.
"He is a soldier in the 3rd ID and he will be treated courteously, professionally and with respect. He will be treated like any other soldier in the division," Larson said. "And he will be afforded due process and the right to legal counsel at any time he requests it. And, most importantly, he is innocent until proven guilty, if that should be the case."
Cornell had been a soldier with the 3rd ID's 1-39 Field Artillery when he fled the country, becoming absent without leave. That unit has since dissolved.
Yesterday, prior to turning himself in, he said he avoided the war due to fear for himself and his unit.
"I was scared," a noticeably shaken Cornell said just moments before heading to the main gates of the post.
He also stated that he did not want to follow orders he said he was given by his former chain of command to kill innocent people.
Larson refuted Cornell's allegations.
"The Army does not target innocent civilians and does not take innocent life," he said. "Any allegations that soldiers are purposely trained to harm civilians are grossly inaccurate."
It was not clear as of Wednesday afternoon what form of administrative or criminal punishment, Cornell could face.
Larson said the decision would now fall on Cornell's new company commander.
"That could result in no action, administrative action, non-judicial punishment or result in a court martial," he said.
Cornell's lawyer, James Branum, said he and his client are prepared to wait it out.
"There are a lot of unknowns right now because his old unit does not exist," Branum said. "We have to just wait and see."
 

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