Soldier arrested for choosing her son over deployment

Hutchinson with her son. AP.A soldier and single mother, Army Spc. Alexis Hutchinson missed her deployment flight to Afghanistan because no one could care for her ten-month-old son while she was away. She was arrested and taken to Hunter Airfield in Savannah, GA, while the child was taken into custody for 24 hours. AP and the Oakland Tribune have more:

“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. [...]
The Army requires all single-parent soldiers to submit a care plan for dependent children before they can deploy to a combat zone.”

Hutchinson submitted a plan for her mother to care for the infant, but her mother’s responsibilities to care for three additional sick family members made this impossible after two weeks. The underlying lesson below this egregious oversight is that the military, like all bureaucratic institutions, operates by standard operating procedures that cannot accommodate for the unexpected. There’s no question that the insistence that a soldier put their child in foster care is egregious. Still unsettling is the Army’s initial treatment of this single mother like a deserter.

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145 Comments

  1. liv79
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Motherhood- Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

  2. Ariza
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Why don’t women step forward and help each other? Why do we think that our only options are to be dependent on a man or on the government? Why can’t we step up and get each others’ backs? I know there must be several moms in her area that would be able to help out? Do we have no community, no friends, no one we can trust? I’m sorry, but the nuclear family, even the extended family, is too small a unit. It works well for keeping people separate, afraid, and powerless. We need a tribe. We need to take responsibility for building social capital and for creating social networks that meet our common needs. The government has decided it exists to protect corporate interests and most men are looking out for their own. Women need to work together. Solidarity is our only option.

  3. SquaredCircle
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    The issue here is not motherhood or the military but a failure to properly plan for unexpected circumstances. The mother has a responsibility to the military and her child. The plan she had fell through – that is not the military’s fault. She undoubtedly knows what is expected of her and if she cannot live up to it than she must accept the consequences.
    When she joined the military she agreed to fulfill the duties associated with being a soldier. The military is an organization that requires discipline and oftentimes creative planning. Why should the whole organization be held responsible when in reality the problem was a failure of one individual?

  4. DeafBrownTrash
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I know that in the U.S military, all soldiers (male or female) are required to come up with a family plan and appoint a guardian to look over their kids while they’re deployed overseas.
    She made a pledge to serve in the military, she was supposed to show up for deployment– she didn’t. She violated the contract and she broke the rules.

  5. DeafBrownTrash
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    sorry, my response was for liv79

  6. ElleStar
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    But it wasn’t HER failure that her plan fell through, either. The unforeseen happened, as it often does. Instead of being treated like a criminal because she can’t control everything in her life, maybe the army could have deferred her deployment or found some way to work with her so that her only option for childcare wasn’t foster care.

  7. Athenia
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    If the military values its soliders and its families and requires them to deploy, then they need to provide care for everyone.
    If they do not want to take care of that issue, then they should not employ single parents or people with families.
    This is exactly what the Shiver report was about—families are changing, but our insitutions still thinks mom stays at home with the kids.

  8. lucierohan
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    but does that mean she deserves a year in jail? What bothers me isn’t really the possibility that she’ll be discharged, though it does suck since the circumstances were beyond her control.
    But the idea of her going to jail because she refused to put her child in foster care is pretty absurd don’t you think? And it smacks of this nationalistic attitude that one should be more devoted to big institutions which one can barely make sense of (like the military) than to that which is closest and dearest (like one’s child).

  9. Athenia
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    If the military values its soliders and its families and requires them to deploy, then they need to provide care for everyone.
    If they do not want to take care of that issue, then they should not employ single parents or people with families.
    This is exactly what the Shiver report was about—families are changing, but our insitutions still thinks mom stays at home with the kids.

  10. Honeybee
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know about this. If you are going to be in the military I think you have to accept that deployment is a part of life. You shouldn’t be in the military if you are a single mother/father unless you have a solid plan for your child because of this. It’s not the military’s fault she didn’t have a proper plan in place. And something like the military has to run on strict rules. They of all institutions can’t have a subjective system.
    She is getting the benefits of the salary and everything else from the military. If they said it’s ok nevermind it’s like giving a free salary to anyone who wants it. Anyone could just join the military but then make up an excuse related to their child to get out of war if ever called upon. I think if you want to be in the military you have to make a commitment. If you don’t want to make the commitment it’s fine just don’t join the military.

  11. Marc
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    As much as I’d love to scream sexism and a lack of care for working mothers, it’s not the case at all, folks. The case here, pure and simple, is bad leadership. The alternative, then, is to let her stay back and take care of her kid, while taking a compassionate reassignment.
    The Army, it seems, to think Soldiers are freaking robots, who are trained to take orders and have no personal lives.
    Soldiers raising their right hands do not automatically turn into robots, without real world problems. Soldiers fall in love, have sex, and get pregnant. If we’re going to talk about adapt and overcome, this is the one situation in which the Army needs to adapt and overcome.
    The NCO’s two most basic responsibilities: accomplishment of the mission and taking care of Soldiers. I highly doubt that mission in some dining facility in Kabul is going to change without her. In this case, the Army can still accomplish its mission and take care of this Soldier.
    A bad Soldier is still a Soldier and a human being. My question is how the hell her leader dropped the ball on a family care plan.
    So, at the beginning of getting ready for this deployment, did her NCO sit down with her and counsel her on family care plans? If he did, why the hell is there no plan B? If he didn’t, why the hell is he a leader?
    So, let her stay back, find some Soldiers to replace her, and take rank from the piece of crap NCO that did her wrong with bad leadership.
    Marc

  12. Honeybee
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Oh btw I don’t think she should go to jail. I saw someone post something alluding to this. I just assumed she had a choice between discharge or deployment, not jail. Perhaps some punishment is ok but sending her to jail for a year does not seem fair given the circumstances. I think sentancing SHOULD take individual circumstances into account.

  13. Athenia
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Sorry for the double post!

  14. Marc
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Take it from her perspective – would you want to deploy and leave your kid to some woman? Talk all you want to about taking care of each other, but understand that reality is that it’s her kid, and she’s not going to deploy 100 percent assured that he’s well taken care of. Call it a parent’s instinct.
    In either cases, a distracted Soldier is a dead Soldier. Worst, she gets others killed. Would you want that?
    The best course of action is to move her to a non-deployable unit and send Soldiers who are ready on this deployment.

  15. ElleStar
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    I dislike this “all or nothing” argument. Although the army likes it’s black and white reality, it’s not what the lives of the people in its employ represent. Single mothers and fathers should be able to join the military if it is the best decision for them and their family.
    The woman in the OP did have a solid plan for her deployment. Unfortunately, it fell through and not because of anything she did. It was just some bad luck. Instead of insisting that it’s all or nothing, that she’s a soldier or she’s a criminal, why not come up with a third option?
    Not allowing single parent families join the army will have more of an adverse effect on women, since women are still primary care givers.

  16. Marc
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    You must then also know that she has leaders, supervisors, and company commanders, all of whom are responsible for her well being so that she is deployable.
    Clearly, the leadership in this Soldier’s command is incompetent. Shit may roll downhill in the military, but the source is from the top, and it is also the faults of all her leaders.
    A junior enlisted Soldier is not to be blamed for us. Her leaders dropped the fucking ball.

  17. Marc
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I also wanted to add, not that it has anything to do with the actual situation: that’s one cute fucking kid.

  18. liv79
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    “The military is an organization that requires discipline and oftentimes creative planning.”
    Really? “creative planning?” Where’s all the creative planning when the military tells her that her options after her child care plan fell through are jail and foster care? I don’t seem them coming up with a creative plan for her. I see them punishing their voluntary workforce and a tiny child.

  19. liv79
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Oh yes, that makes perfect sense- the one size fits all punishment. No room for variety, consideration of variables, or the soldiers’ voluntary commitment to her country. Excellent solution, off to jail with you, deserter.

  20. Marc
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Hey, I kinda dig you for posting that. Nice goin’!

  21. DeafBrownTrash
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    “And it smacks of this nationalistic attitude that one should be more devoted to big institutions which one can barely make sense of (like the military) than to that which is closest and dearest (like one’s child).”
    That’s exactly the whole point about the military. When someone enlists for the military, they are basically giving up their family and a life of comfort to serve their nation.
    If she or anyone else can’t do that, then she shouldn’t have signed up for the military. There are MANY women and men who have children and spouses, but they are willing to sacrifice their own lives and families to serve for our nation.
    But I agree that jail is a lousy solution– but then again, she signed a contract and she should have followed the rules.

  22. Marc
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Creative planning, really? What military have you been observing?
    In fact, other than knowing how to spell it, what the heck do you actually know about the military?

  23. DeafBrownTrash
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    I honestly can’t really argue with you about this because I don’t know how this works. You’ll have to ask someone who’s enlisted and hear their own opinion.

  24. djhop
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    So if you don’t want to deploy you can just have a kid and keep all of the benefits that soldiers that own up to their obligations get? Great plan there is no way any one could take advantage of this at the detriment to other soldiers that don’t have a convenient excuse to duck their duty.

  25. FrumiousB
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I agree with most of what you say. Where I disagree is that this is a problem of an NCO. This is a systemic problem with a military that is not prepared to deal with soldiers who do not have a spouse who can take care of the kids. It’s not just single parents, either. There was a married woman who made the news because she had no one who could take the kid due to her husband’s travel schedule. We no longer live in a world where only men join the military or where all family units have a stay at home spouse. The military has not adjusted to this reality.

  26. DeafBrownTrash
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with you, the military should really set up a care program for soldiers who can’t find anyone to take care of their children. But this smacks of gender disparity (for lack of a better term, I can’t think of anything else).
    Female soldiers who are single mothers, face this problem while most male soldiers usually leave their children in the care of their wives, girlfriends, or the children’s biological mother.
    And I’m afraid to say, but this is an issue that some bigots would proudly push forward the argument that women shouldn’t be allowed to join the U.S military, which is what I fear.

  27. liv79
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    But you were perfectly willing to hop all over this woman’s butt for “violating her contract” and breaking the rules. Now you say it’s only up for discussion if we’re all enlisted?

  28. DeafBrownTrash
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    um… your comment made no sense.

  29. liv79
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Oh yes, that’s what everyone does when they want to get out of an obligation: give birth to the biggest obligation of them all.

  30. LalaReina
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I am truly stunned at the total lack of human concern for this mother and child displayed on this board when did Glen Beck take over?

  31. Nepenthe
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Wtf? Welfare queen joins the military?
    Since when do soldiers sign away their reproductive rights? Also, since when are feminists accusing women of having kids as a “convenient excuse”? There’s nothing convenient about a 10-month-old.

  32. liv79
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    “She made a pledge to serve in the military, she was supposed to show up for deployment– she didn’t. She violated the contract and she broke the rules.”
    Are there 2 Deafbrowntrash’s on this thread?

  33. djhop
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Soldier don’t have the same rights as non soldiers. Hence the separate justice system for soldiers.

  34. DeafBrownTrash
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    no, it’s just me. If you’re going to go after me, just stop it.

  35. ElleStar
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Yeah. I’m sure there’s a REAL danger of women enlisting, then getting pregnant and raising the child on their own JUST to get benefits.
    *rolls eyes*
    No one here says that this woman shouldn’t face her obligations. Most of us are saying that there needs to be some allowance for when the best laid plans fall through so that single parents (mothers or fathers) have other options than foster care to take care of their children.

  36. lucierohan
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    “But I agree that jail is a lousy solution– but then again, she signed a contract and she should have followed the rules.”
    But everyone pretty much agrees that under certain circumstances violations of code should be excused. Under certain circumstances (ex: self-defense) it’s permissible to take another person’s life. Why shouldn’t that incidental leniency apply to a lesser crime like resisting deployment?

  37. opinionated
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Spoken like someone who has a whole lot more privilege or a whole lot less responsibility than the mother in the article.
    Motherhood is full of surprises and changes. The minute she discovered their was a problem in the plan, she should have been able to move to plan B, work in the states and have the child in daycare.
    Putting a child in foster care because the mother is being deployed is assinine and insane.
    Good for her for choosing her child over one of the most sexist organization in the U.S.
    peace out and good luck with your support system if you are a mother or ever become one.

  38. opinionated
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    No.
    She did not quit the Forces, she simply can’t be deployed right now. They simply needed to re assign her. It’s the sensible thing to do until she has a reliable support system in place. Foster care is not the answer.
    There are simply not enough female leaders to implement a plan B for the single mothers who are up for deployment in the sexist, armed forces of the USA.

  39. liv79
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Wanting clarification on inconsistent statements is “going after you?” Weird. I thought it was called “discourse.”

  40. opinionated
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Are you a volunteer babysitter?
    Cause I’d love to get you screened and assign you to some moms who could really use the help, wherever you live.
    You could put your time where your typing is and stop by the nearest women’s shelter, offer to watch the kids while the moms go to job interviews, are in therapy, take a shower!
    Yes, women, help women out!
    Go for it.
    Now, that said, becoming the guardian of a child whose mother is at war…well, that is a huge responsibility and not one to take lightly or just jump into.
    Children are not puppies to be handed to the neighbor for feeding and walking, while away.

  41. opinionated
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    “adapt and overcome”
    You are awesome!

  42. Lucy Gillam
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    There are a non-trivial number of commenters here for whom advocacy of women ceases the moment that woman chooses, or even wants, to have a child. It’s not a majority (and to be clear, the bloggers themselves are not in this group and do try to include advocacy for motherhood in the posts), but it’s as predictable sunrise.

  43. liv79
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    There are plenty of jobs in the military where you can earn your benefits like everyone else and not hand your child over for foster care. It’s not as if the only important jobs in the military are the ones where you shoot guns.

  44. A female Marine
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    It’s not her fault OR the military’s fault. They both thought she had a plan and then it fell through at the last minute. Whoever told her she would have to put her kid in foster care was an cruel idiot and based on what the Army spokesperson said, was also wrong. (he said the Army won’t deploy a single parent without a plan)
    Also, it was wrong of the Army to say they would give her more time to make arrangements and then change their minds! How was that supposed to help anything?
    I don’t understand why some of you are saying single mothers shouldn’t be in the military if they don’t have a care plan. That’s irrevelant here because she wasn’t a mother when she joined the Army! And you can’t just get out early anymore because you have a baby.
    All in all, I agree that this was probably a leadership/NCO problem. It’s hard to tell because the articles are very vague, but it sounds like her direct superiors made it clear to her that she had no options other than foster care or refusing deployment. And when she went AWOL, they reported to THEIR superiors that she had committed “misconduct”. Their superiors should have been made aware of her situation BEFORE she ever went AWOL.
    (And she’s a cook. It’s not like she’s the unit’s only Pashto translator. It’s not that cooks aren’t important of course, but even if she was the ONLY cook going it wouldn’t hurt anybody to eat MREs until she arrived later)

  45. djhop
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    She chose to join the military before she chose to become a mother. She was well aware of the limitations over her living situation due to her obligation to the military.

  46. Lucy Gillam
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I think there are two keys here:
    1. Her backup plan fell through unexpectedly.
    2. She’s not asking for indefinite reassignment, just time to make other arrangements.
    And the sexism here is less in the specific situation or even in the military’s handling than in our culture’s division of parenting labor. Here’s one for you: how come no one’s asking where the father is? Because I would be a week’s salary that if it were a male soldier raising a 10-month-old alone, that child’s mother would be the focus of considerable scorn.

  47. Lucy Gillam
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Considering how much attention we’ve seen on this very site to the lack of access to abortion in the military, I find your statement really, really funny.
    Beyond that, I’m willing to bet she didn’t “choose” to be raising a child alone. The fact that male soldiers with 10-month-olds typically have co-parents to rely on is hardly her fault. However, a military that wants to keep its trained soldiers needs to have some flexibility. It typically has flexibility. Someone screwed up in this situation, and it wasn’t just her.

  48. Lily A
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    I don’t agree that we should be worried that people would choose to have children just to get out of military obligations.
    What does seem like a reasonable concern, though, is that some people who already have children would be tempted to say “nobody is willing to take care of my daughter! My child care plan fell through, so now you can’t send me into combat!” I can imagine that if this woman did not face any sort of discipline for failing to have a backup plan, then folks with children could try to unfairly use them as an excuse to get out of combat.
    Obviously I’m not saying that this woman is lying, and I agree with those who say the Army should make reasonable accommodations, with perhaps a moderate penalty. Because really, she should have had a backup plan, and if her social network doesn’t allow her a backup plan, then she shouldn’t have made the commitment to being in the military. What if she had gone into combat and the caretaker had died or become unable to care for the child? If the kid would end up homeless or in the foster system, then the parent shouldn’t be making a commitment to leave the country without him. But regardless, she and her child should be treated with dignity, and not something the government (by way of the military) can forcibly separate unless the mother is abusive.

  49. liv79
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    I thought the same thing about the father, but I assumed that’s the first thing the mother would have thought about if it were an option. In any case, I agree it’s an excellent question.

  50. Lucy Gillam
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Yah, I assume he’s not an option. What interests me is that no one even here is pointing that out. Considering how often I’ve seen mothers blamed for things fathers do or fail to do, it seems an odd gap. And by odd, I mean totally predictable. It’s always the mother’s responsibility, always her fault.

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