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There are several forms of absence from military duty, with desertion being the most serious. Desertion has been a problem for the U.S. armed forces throughout their history, but its frequency has changed dramatically. It was far more prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries than later. Just as U.S. society has changed radically, so have the composition of the armed forces and the incidence of desertion. Standards for entering the armed forces, even in wartime, are higher than they once were. More and more service members are specialists, often serving in support roles rather than in combat units, perhaps thereby helping to reduce desertion. This entry examines the history of desertion in the U.S. armed forces from the 18th century to the present, factors ...

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