173rd Airborne soldier located after a week AWOL in Italy

Private Angel Gonzales surrendered himself at the U.S. Embassy in Rome after walking out of Aviano Air Base days prior.
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U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, run during a 12-mile ruck march as part of the brigade's Expert Infantryman Badge testing phase at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, Feb. 5, 2016. (Spc. Gertrud Zach/U.S. Army)

The 173rd Airborne paratrooper who went AWOL in Aviano, Italy last week is in custody, the U.S. Army confirmed.

Private First Class Angel Gonzales surrendered himself at the U.S. Embassy in Rome on Thursday, March 14 after spending days missing after walking off base while training in Aviano. Gonzales, assigned to a cannon crew and based in Grafenwoehr, Germany, was with his unit on a training mission at Aviano Air Base in northern Italy last week. 

“We would like to thank all the authorities, Italian law enforcement agencies involved in the search and all those who provided support,” Jeff Alderson, a spokesman for U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, said in a statement. Stars & Stripes first reported on Gonzales being located.

A separate spokesman for the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa confirmed to Task & Purpose that Gonzales was back with his unit.

Private Angel Gonzales (photo courtesy U.S. Army)

According to the Army’s statement, Gonzales allegedly traveled by train to Rome. Once at the embassy he asked to be able to go home.

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Internal text chats within the 173rd viewed by Task & Purpose say that Gonzales was put under watch by fellow paratroopers after initially trying to walk off a parachute detail, tossing his phone away. He escaped from watch shortly after a shift change and then went missing in the early hours of Friday, March 8. 

Soldiers in his unit, as well as Italian law enforcement, searched throughout Aviano last weekend trying to locate him, checking churches, hospitals and train stations for any sign of the paratrooper.. They searched for four days before returning to base in Germany. Gonzales was declared absent without leave 

The U.S. Army in Vilseck, Germany opened a missing persons case regarding Gonzales, although Army Criminal Investigations Division did not. It’s not clear how Gonzales was able to evade being spotted for several days and get all of the way to Rome, which is approximately 370 miles south of Aviano.

Task & Purpose contacted the embassy but as of press time has not heard back about details of Gonzales’ surrender. 

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