Soldier Mom Refuses Deployment
A sad and not terribly unusual case:
An Army cook and single mom may face criminal charges after she skipped her deployment flight to Afghanistan because, she said, no one was available to care for her infant son while she was overseas. Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, 21, claims she had no choice but to refuse deployment orders because the only family she had to care for her 10-month-old son — her mother — was overwhelmed by the task, already caring for three other relatives with health problems.
Her civilian attorney, Rai Sue Sussman, said Monday that one of Hutchinson’s superiors told her she would have to deploy anyway and place the child in foster care. “For her it was like, ‘I couldn’t abandon my child,’” Sussman said. “She was really afraid of what would happen, that if she showed up they would send her to Afghanistan anyway and put her son with child protective services.”
Hutchinson, who is from Oakland, Calif., remained confined Monday to the boundaries of Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, 10 days after military police arrested her for skipping her unit’s flight. No charges have been filed, but a spokesman for the Army post said commanders were investigating.
Kevin Larson, a spokesman for Hunter Army Airfield, said he didn’t know what Hutchinson was told by her commanders, but he said the Army would not deploy a single parent who had nobody to care for his or her child. “I don’t know what transpired and the investigation will get to the bottom of it,” Larson said. “If she would have come to the deployment terminal with her child, there’s no question she would not have been deployed.”
My guess is that the Army will be lenient with Hutchinson, likely giving her nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the UCMJ. Her actions were stupid rather than venal and it would be both unjust and a publicity nightmare to put her in jail. Indeed, the best course of action here would be a hardship discharge.
The broader question is why the Army allows people to draw paychecks and fill unit slots who are essentially permanently non-deployable. It’s not just single parents, although there are a lot of them in the service. There are also large numbers of dual-military couples with children, presenting essentially the same issue. People with ailments that are treatable and allow them to fulfill peacetime duties but not go off to war are allowed to serve as well. And when their units go off to the fight, they remain behind.
This makes no sense, if one presumes that the primary function of the military is war-fighting rather than job creation or social welfare. It was an irrational policy in the 1980s, when the U.S. military was mostly a deterrent. It’s simply crazy given the operations tempo of the past two decades.