JACKSONVILLE, FLA., DEC. 27 -- Two college students were thrown into the brig and could face desertion charges after failing to report when their Marine Corps Reserve unit was deployed to the Persian Gulf region, officials said.

James E. Summers Jr., 20, and Demetrio R. Perez, 21, longtime best friends and roommates in Gainesville, surrendered at the Armed Forces Reserve Center Wednesday and asked for conscientious-objector status.

"We're confident we are doing the right thing," Perez said.

"I am following my conscience," Summers said, "and that comes first."

Marine Maj. Reggie White in Jacksonville said they were taken to Camp LeJeune, N.C., for possible court-martial "for their 29-day deserter status."

Maj. Bill Grein, a Marine spokesman in New Orleans, said the two probably would be confined until they can speak with their commanding officer.

Their lawyer, Ellis Rubin of Miami, said he advised the pair to surrender because a federal warrant had been issued for their arrest.

The military could either discharge the pair, hold a hearing on their conscientious-objector status or order them court-martialed on the desertion charges.

Rubin said the charges also could be reduced to "unauthorized absence."

Marines can face as much as

one year in the brig for unauthorized absence and one year for missing the unit, which left town Nov. 27.

"Basic warrior training exposed me to darkness, death, killing and war," Perez said in his application for conscientious-objector status. "This is when I realized that

my conscience would not allow

me to participate in any