Fort Bliss officials are no longer sure whether an Army private who disappeared in July intentionally left the Army post near El Paso, Texas, as they said he did earlier this month.
New evidence uncovered by Army CID agents, which was not detailed, suggests that Pvt. Richard Halliday left post earlier on July 24 than previously reported, according to 1st Armored Division spokeswoman Lt. Col. Allie Payne.
The soldier’s mother and father have said it took more than a month before the Army informed them that their son was missing, and that was only after they called his unit after not hearing from him.
Post officials previously said on Sept. 2 that “Halliday fled his unit” at Fort Bliss “deliberately and in violation of orders.” But on Monday evening Payne confirmed that the post is no longer certain that the soldier left intentionally.
“This update means we can no longer confirm that he fled,” Payne told Army Times. “Based upon information we received, it changed the potential timeline of when Pvt. Halliday may have left and when he was last seen by a witness in his place of duty.”
Halliday was supposed to be under the watch of other individuals at the time of his disappearance, though the reasons for that have not been disclosed.
“It is still accurate that he was under escort and on a restriction of movement order at that time,” Payne added. “It will take more time and a broader search to confirm further leads as the investigation moves forward.”
Though Halliday’s unit leaders have said they’ve made attempts to contact the soldier’s family throughout the search process, the family has started a Facebook page that has been critical of the Army’s handling of the situation. Halliday’s mother did not immediately return a phone call placed Tuesday morning.
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Halliday’s father, Robert, said in a video posted to the Facebook page that he and his wife were not informed their son had been missing for a month until they began making phone calls to his unit.
“We thought he may have been in the field but we were tired of waiting, so on Aug. 28 we called the battalion and through the battalion we got hold of the battery commander and we were informed that Richard was now considered AWOL and since it was past 30 days, a deserter,” the elder Halliday said in the video posted this weekend.
Their son’s duty status is currently listed as absent without leave, or AWOL, and not as a deserter, according to Payne.
How the Army categorizes soldiers who go missing, whether it be AWOL, deserter or some other status, is an issue that Army senior leaders say they’re looking at after Fort Hood soldier Pvt. Gregory Morales went missing in September 2019, was listed as a deserter and then was found dead miles from post this June. Morales’ death is now suspected of involving foul play, according to local police.
Halliday has been in the Army for a little more than two years. He served as a Patriot missile launching station maintainer at the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command on Fort Bliss.
A source on Fort Bliss told Army Times that soldiers were borrowed from multiple units to search for Halliday on Tuesday. Roughly 200 soldiers were involved, the source added.
“It remains uncertain of how or when Pvt. Halliday departed Fort Bliss. His duty status remains AWOL for administrative purposes to allow the continued dedication of proper resources in the search for this young man,” Payne added in a statement. “However, we are widening and increasing our search to include in and around El Paso.”
A missing poster for Halliday stated that he is 6-feet-tall, has brown hair and green eyes.
Editor’s note: Anyone with information regarding Pvt. Halliday or his whereabouts should call the Fort Bliss MP Desk at 915-744-1237.
About Kyle Rempfer
Kyle is a staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the U.S. Army. He served an enlistment as an Air Force Special Tactics CCT and JTAC.