Soldier Mom Arrested After Refusing To Deploy
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
A story now about a young soldier who stayed behind to care for her baby son when her Army brigade left for war. She was arrested and is now being confined to the post Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia. She's waiting to find out what the Army plans to do. Nancy Mullane of member station KALW reports.
NANCY MULLANE: Twenty-one-year-old Alexis Hutchinson is a single parent of a 10-month-old boy and a cook in the U.S. Army. The specialist had orders to deploy to Afghanistan on November 5th. But instead of deploying, she stayed home off-base that day because she didn't have anyone to care for her son.
Specialist ALEXIS HUTCHINSON (United States Army): It was hard because, I mean, there was nothing I could do. And I just sat there with my son and thought, I'm going to get in so much trouble because I'm missing my flight.
MULLANE: The Army reports there are 85,000 single parent soldiers. All are required to maintain an approved family care plan. It identifies who will take care of their child during times of drills, annual trainings, and long deployments. Specialist Hutchinson says her mother in California initially agreed to care for her son long-term, but in October that plan unraveled when her mother realized it would just be too much.
Spc. HUTCHINSON: I went home on leave. And my mother, she told me that she couldn't take care of my child. So as soon as I got back off leave, I let them know this. So they took it to my commander and he gave me a counseling statement saying you have 30 days to come up with a family care plan.
MULLANE: But just five days later, on November 4th, Hutchinson says her commander told her that her brigade's deployment date had been moved up and she no longer had the full 30 days to arrange for her son's care.
Spc. HUTCHINSON: They told me I needed to figure out something and have someone pick up my son within 24 hours.
MULLANE: The day after Hutchinson missed deployment, she showed up on post with her son Kamani in tow.
Spc. HUTCHINSON: They told me that because I missed movement, I'm going to jail, and they're going to court-martial me and give me a bad conduct discharge. And I started crying a lot and I tried to explain, like, I just want an extension. I just need time to have someone take care of my child. And they basically told me I don't care.
MULLANE: Hutchinson's civilian attorney, Rai Sue Sussman.
Ms. RAI SUE SUSSMAN (Attorney): When my client, Specialist Hutchinson, voluntarily returned to base, she was arrested and placed in jail on the base by the military police.
MULLANE: A licensed military childcare provider was called to take custody of Hutchinson's 10-month-old son.
Spc. HUTCHINSON: It was hard to watch my son get in a car with a complete stranger. It was very hard.
MULLANE: Specialist Hutchinson contacted her mother, Angelique Hughes, who flew from Oakland, California the next day to pick up her grandson.
Ms. ANGELIQUE HUGHES: When I came to pick the baby up, he was just like traumatized. You know, I couldn't put him down. He's clinging all on me. He's crying. And you know, and then I'm thinking to myself, okay, now, what has happened to this baby?
MULLANE: Kevin Larson, media relations chief at Hunter Army Airfield, says the Army recognizes that family care plans do fall through, and Specialist Hutchinson's case is under investigation.
Mr. KEVIN LARSON (Media Relations, Hunter Army Airfield): It is being looked at by the command and they are exploring all options together with Specialist Hutchinson and her counsel to ensure that we do right by the situation and come to the proper conclusion.
MULLANE: As Specialist Hutchinson remains confined to the post, her son is being cared for temporarily by her mother in California.
For NPR News, I'm Nancy Mullane.