KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The first woman in Tennessee to enlist as a combat engineer in the Army went AWOL according to a military spokesperson.
Local 8 News was first to tell you about Erika Lopez back in July of 2015. She made headlines when she enlisted for a job that could involve fighting on the front lines.
The U.S. Army had just lifted its ban on women in combat roles when she walked into a recruiting office in Knoxville and decided to enlist as a combat engineer.
Lopez was in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. An Army spokesperson tells Local 8 News that Private Lopez was scheduled to return from convalescent leave on January 4th. She was reported absent without leave (AWOL) on January 5th after she failed to return.
Spokesperson Tiffany Wood issued a statement saying, "After 30 days in an AWOL status, a Soldier is considered a deserter and a
federal warrant is issued for his or her arrest. "
Wood says once Private Erika Lopez is arrested she'll be taken to the nearest military installment and handed over to military police.
Wood released the following statement about attempts to contact Lopez. She said, "We are always concerned for the welfare of our soldiers. Pvt. Erika Lopez's unit has tried multiple times to determine her whereabouts and make contact with her, however all attempts have been unsuccessful. If anyone has any
information on the whereabouts of Pvt. Erika Lopez, please contact local authorities."
Back in July of 2015, Lopez told us she knew her decision was unique. "It makes me feel really excited that no woman has ever done it before."
She left her husband and two children in September of 2015 for basic training where she was learning to build bridges, detonate artillery, and detect roadside bombs under combat conditions. She said, "You make sacrifices your whole life for your children and for your family, this will be a sacrifice... Women can do anything they set their mind to just as well as men I don't really see any difference at all. I hope women will want to join."
The following video is the previous story: