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

    The US military is the same institution that will leave you high and drive if you DARE get wounded in battle and they have no other use for you.
    The military doesn’t accomodate you, if you join it is your job to accomodate the military. That sucks but that’s how it is. Even if her mom HAD cared for her son while she was away, if her mom got sick then what? Unless her mother died-they wouldn’t let her come back to the US, her son would be in foster care.
    I feel sympathy for her and hope they don’t put her in jail but she would have to be removed from the military via dishonorable discharge.

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

    EXACTLY. Women are selfish for choosing careers over children but when we do both it’s also selfish. I just feel like a woman shouldn’t be jailed for not finding care for her child when we’re not seeing men held to the same level of responsibility.
    And just as importantly- why is the military so interested in incarcerating its own workforce when they are stop-lossing thousands? It makes zero sense not to have an alternate plan for the relatively few people for whom this might be an issue.

  3. paperispatient
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    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.
    This is one of the first things that crossed my mind upon reading this, that some people will use this as an opportunity to argue that mothers or all women shouldn’t be allowed in the military.

  4. A female Marine
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    I think the father deserves all the scorn available but I would trust her judgment. She clearly doesn’t want him to take the kid while she’s gone.

  5. Lucy Gillam
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    The US military is the same institution that will leave you high and drive if you DARE get wounded in battle and they have no other use for you.
    I thought progressives agreed that this was a BAD THING? I mean, are we actually saying it’s okay that the military often sucks at taking care of its members? What the hell does that say about us?

  6. Ariel
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Additionally, she is an Army cook.

  7. Phenicks
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    “Single mothers and fathers should be able to join the military if it is the best decision for them and their family.”
    But how could working for an institution/company/corporation be best for your family when it requires you to leave your family for months, maybe years at a time when you are sole caregiver/guardian of small children?
    I come from a military family and by its virtue, is very unpredictable. People talk with you about this when you sign up, what the dangers are, what the rules are, how strict those rules are and why those rules can not be broken. She wasn’t blindsided by this because she didn’t know the consequences-she was blindsided because she thought they wouldn’t do it.
    I hope- again- she doesn’t get jail time but she can’t be in the military.

  8. rhowan
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    In case anyone’s interested, I believe this is a copy of the Family Care Plan form that Hutchinson would have had to sign and comply with.
    It really does appear that in the event that a care plan falls through the army puts all responsibility on the soldier. From the form:
    “Failure to make and maintain adequate family care arrangements in accordance with the army’s policy is grounds for separation or disciplinary action”
    “If arrangements for the care of [the soldier's] family fail to work [the soldier is] not automatically excused from prescribed duties, unit deployment or reassignment.”
    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

  9. ElleStar
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    But how could working for an institution/company/corporation be best for your family when it requires you to leave your family for months, maybe years at a time when you are sole caregiver/guardian of small children?
    It can be best for a family when they have a plan for deployment, just as this woman had before that plan fell through.
    I come from a military family and by its virtue, is very unpredictable. People talk with you about this when you sign up, what the dangers are, what the rules are, how strict those rules are and why those rules can not be broken. She wasn’t blindsided by this because she didn’t know the consequences-she was blindsided because she thought they wouldn’t do it.
    So the military can be unpredictable, but her life can’t be?
    Her issue is not one that is insurmountable and will never ever resolve. Her plan fell through at the last moment through no fault of her own. Instead of finding some middle ground to work with her and her new circumstance, they decided to treat her like a criminal.
    I’m not saying that she shouldn’t fulfill her obligation, just that she should be allotted the time to make a new plan.

  10. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Bottom line, back when Specialist Hutchinson put her right hand in the air and swore an oath that she would obey all lawful orders of the Commander-in-Chief and her superior officers, she knew the consequences of breaking that oath.
    And yes, the military very much does expect you to put the Army before your family.

  11. rhowan
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    The most any of the articles I’ve seen have said about the father is that Hutchinson “is no longer in a relationship with [him]“.

  12. Phenicks
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    “Single mothers and fathers should be able to join the military if it is the best decision for them and their family.”
    But how could working for an institution/company/corporation be best for your family when it requires you to leave your family for months, maybe years at a time when you are sole caregiver/guardian of small children?
    I come from a military family and by its virtue, is very unpredictable. People talk with you about this when you sign up, what the dangers are, what the rules are, how strict those rules are and why those rules can not be broken. She wasn’t blindsided by this because she didn’t know the consequences-she was blindsided because she thought they wouldn’t do it.
    I hope- again- she doesn’t get jail time but she can’t be in the military.

  13. aleks
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    The military, like every other military, is of the opinion that soldiers need to obey orders, which requires military discipline, which requires that people who disobey orders be severely punished, even if they felt they had a good reason. The traditional response to desertion is the firing squad.

  14. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Marc, as you know far better than I do, the Army basically does expect it’s soldiers to be “freaking robots” and to follow orders.
    That’s what armies do – and, compared to most of the world’s armed forces, the US Army is pretty damned lenient in that respect (imagine somebody in the Russian Army or the PLA trying to dodge a deployment because they had child care issues!)
    In the case of Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, you seem to be implying that somebody else who was supposed to stay home should be deployed instead, just because Spc Hutchinson couldn’t handle her personal business.
    That seems manifestly unfair to me – perhaps the reasonable compromise would be discharging Spc Hutchinson, rather than making somebody else go in harm’s way because of her subpar personal planning skills.

  15. kungfulola
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    “It’s always the mother’s responsibility, always her fault.”
    I am struggling with this concept right now, because my sister-in-law is having a child with a man who has already proven himself to be unworthy of her trust (and she didn’t know him that well when she conceived, either). He doesn’t deserve to have a child with her and he is undoubtedly going to be a deadbeat dad. But she is not a powerless victim of his irresponsibility – she chose to have his child. Women have the inalienable right to choose whether or not to give birth, and the father has no say, which is as it should be. But with every right comes an equal responsibility, and imo part of that responsibility is to ensure that the father of a child is either honourable and can be relied on, or is superfluous and won’t be needed or missed.

  16. A female Marine
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    This is not a case of desertion. I believe someone is declared a deserter after being AWOL for more than 30 days.

  17. Evrybdy44
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I believe the bottom line is that this woman is in trouble for not abandoning her child.
    Sure she signed up for the military. Yeah she has obligations. There’s no argument there, but the idea that she should be punished for not abandoning her child and that ANYONE is ok w/that is disturbing to me.

  18. A female Marine
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    It says not “automatically” excused, which makes sense. That way people can’t say “oh my plan fell through” just to avoid something they don’t want to do. It implies that a review or investigation is required.
    There are waivers and exceptions to almost every rule in the military and they should have made one this case. But it sounds like her superiors didn’t want to help her, just threaten “foster care or else”.

  19. Lucy Gillam
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    I don’t disagree that women should think about whom they have children with. But the question is, do we put this same burden on men? I don’t think we do.
    Further, we put a vastly disproportionate responsibility on mothers not only for their own childrearing, but for the fathers’. If a mother leaves her child in the car on a hot day, it is her fault. If the father does, it is the mother’s fault for working or not being there. If a woman abuses a child, it is her fault. If a man abuses a child, it is the mother’s fault for not stopping it.
    A single father is held in esteem, a figure of sympathy who gets featured in news stories for doing what thousands of women do every day. A single mother is a slut who chose to have that baby, after all. Men are given credit just for not abandoning their children. Women are criticized for the exact same action. How is that not misogyny and sexism and everything feminism is supposed to be about?

  20. opinionated
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Are any of the regular contributors on Feministing mothers?

  21. Comrade Kevin
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    This sounds just like the sort of things they try to pull at large corporations.

  22. A female Marine
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    She didn’t have the child until AFTER she had joined the military, and you can’t get out just because you have a child.

  23. allegra
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Uh? Someone mentioned that the military “most certainly expects you to put it (the military) before your family.” Um, yeah … no. If people really can’t see how that ties into women having trouble breaking into our hierarchical workplaces because of lack of child care and the fact that women still carry most of the child care and domestic burdens, I don’t know how it could be more obvious.
    And I don’t buy into the “but they fully knew what they were signing up for!” bullshit. What a clusterfuck. People join the military because it’s a JOB with PRETTY GOOD BENEFITS, not for the jingoistic “I have to drop everything to serve my country” crap. Not EXPECTING to, e.g., be asked to torture people as they were in Iraq, or to dump their child into foster care just so they can deploy while numerous other people remain undeployed through random chance, or cover up when one of their male buddies rapes someone, etc. Not EXPECTING that their not being able to deploy for a pretty damn good reason is going to get them kicked out.
    People seem to be forgetting what a FUNDAMENTALLY FUCKED PATRIARCHAL institution the military actually is.
    Anyway. More that that, I’m confused why Hutchinson was even ARRESTED. According to the Yahoo!/AP article,
    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.
    It would APPEAR they already have policies against forcing single parents to deploy. There was perhaps just a misunderstanding. Another authority in the article claimed that if she’d just “shown up” to deploy carrying her baby in her arms that they wouldn’t have deployed her. Whether this is true or whether some other fucked-up shit would have happened, which I wouldn’t put past them (like them taking the baby and forcing her to deploy), I don’t know.

  24. B
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    But does a year in jail do anyone good? It won’t help her child and it won’t help the military.

  25. A female Marine
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    It sounds to me like her immediate supervisors didn’t care or didn’t want to help her and said “foster care or else” when in reality, there were other options.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if it came down to one or two supervisors who thought “this woman just doesn’t want to deploy and is using her kid as an excuse so screw her”. And then reported her for misconduct to THEIR superiors when she went AWOL to take care of her son. They should have sent her case straight up the chain of command until a solution was found instead of acting like her son was a dog you take to animal shelter when you can’t take care of it.
    The idea that women routinely use pregnancy and children as war-avoidance techniques is fairly common among military men.

  26. allegra
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Dude, also, when the military thinks it’s more acceptable to promote and “let be” someone like Hasan, bounce him around and “hope he disappears,” and, lo and behold, he shoots up his Army base … when the military, for YEARS, thinks Hasan’s behavior is more acceptable than letting some lady stay in the U.S. with her fucking baby … sorry, just fucking wow. Seriously fucking wow. For all the “accommodations” they had to make for Hasan’s long history of disturbing behavior – they made numerous and not insignificant accommodations for this guy – they can’t accommodate single mothers? It’s a fucking joke, right?

  27. allegra
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    The idea that women routinely use pregnancy and children as war-avoidance techniques is fairly common among military men.
    This is sickening and fucking enraging. It sickens me every time I hear about the entrenched misogyny and sexism in the military. I work with a woman who served in Desert Storm and was basically treated inappropriately and hit on numerous times by a married male military doctor. Finally she reported him and her report got him kicked out, but she found out later that he’d had NUMEROUS harassment reports behind him, and each time he was just slapped on the wrist and transferred ELSEWHERE instead of removed. Talk about accommodation. The military makes all fucking kinds of accommodations for douchebag assholes – BECAUSE THEY’RE MEN. Fucking unbelievable.
    If only she had a dick she’d be getting accommodations out her fucking ears.

  28. allegra
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I hope her immediate superiors get fucking fired, if they were indeed doing what you say.
    But I’m sure they won’t. Those great men-only accommodations will step in.

  29. Lily A
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Right, so she should have either:
    a. Made a back-up plan to care for her child in case her first plan didn’t work, or
    b. Not had a child (I realize not all women have children by choice, but if it was her choice, then she should have considered her existing obligations to the military and made sure she could fulfill them AND fully care for her child before choosing to become pregnant. In the case that having the child was not fully her choice, then she’s definitely in a tricky position, and I applaud her for still choosing the kid over the military regardless.)

  30. Navy_Blue
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Or you could ask someone who’s an officer. Somewhere behind this story, there’s a Junior Officer who should be ashamed to show their face. They have utterly failed to look after the personnel in their command, with negative repercussions for their soldier’s family and career, their unit’s operational readiness, and the good name of their service.
    Of course, maybe that’s just how they roll over there in the big green machine.

  31. dan&danica
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    “The idea that women routinely use pregnancy and children as war-avoidance techniques is fairly common among military men.”
    I’m not sure how common it is overall among military men but during my ten years in I had a few coworkers who explicitly said they had gotten pregnant so they wouldnt have to deploy. In my little corner of the military there were a lot of benefits to being in a “deployable” billet. These women would be assigned to them, get pregnant and remain in those billets without having to deploy. They would usually be rotated out after 24-36 months but that was 24-36 months someone had to go and the folks downrange suffered due to a lack of manning. Cooks are important too but we were the Pashto, Dari, Sorani, etc. linguists mentioned upthread. They didnt mind sharing this with me. It was hard on my wife, a 10-year Senior Chief, to see this as she struggles daily with the sexism inherent to the military even if our field is one of the most progressive in the military.
    So again not sure how prevalent it is within the Army, but just in my little corner of the world it does happen. Similar to some of my friends in training in the late 90′s who got pregnant so they could separate. Its not routine but it does happpen more than many think, its incredibly frustrating as they have the right to do what they want, control their own reproduction etc. but its tough to tell one woman she has to go out again because another woman, while also in a deployable billet, cant go.
    I understand that overall this all falls unfairly on women. I have seen some men have fucked up care plans and things just work out. Not sure what the answer is.

  32. Alessa
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    I think she is more commenting on the fact that we have no one we can trust, and the need for this to change. She’s spot on in pointing out the lack of community within our society, especially compared to other cultures. There is a place called Plum Village that is technically a Buddhist sangha, but also similar to a village. Children are raised there with their direct families but are cared for by everyone…
    Making a desire for community vocal, no matter how radical the idea, isn’t a waste of time I think. I think she was highlighting something our society has lost. It’s an interesting point.

  33. A female Marine
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think you can get pregnant and expect to separate anymore, I don’t think that’s allowed.
    I never heard of, or saw any woman do those sorts of things while I was in. But I did hear men complain about it, which was odd. It was always rumors: “so and so heard about a woman”…”this girl in my buddy’s friend’s unit…” etc. Just like the constant sex rumors: all rumors and no actual facts. Not to say it doesn’t happen of course. Just never saw it or heard of an actual case.
    Men will do stupid crap to avoid deployments too but nobody condemns men being in the military when that happens!

  34. Phenicks
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    It IS a bad thing!!! I don’t dispute that, but she signed up for this BAD THING!!! It’s like don’t be a stripper if you don’t want to be judged by your looks because its your job to look good and be sexy. In the military you are not in some cushy office desk job where you an do what you want, you’re signing up to possibly be killed in war. I’m sure nobody who signs up wants to die but they would have to be stupid to think there wasn’t a real chance of meeting death in the MILITARY!!!!
    My point is, calling her some victim who didn’t know any better seriously undermines her intelligence. If anything she didn’t know, it was all of her options as they pertained to this specific situation. But shock at the military being as strict as they have been since boot camp is umm….illogical.

  35. becca
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Its funny, you are asking about a community support and care network to help a women in need of child care.. I know people who are foster parents, and that is exactly what they are. They are middle class professionals, they aren’t doing it for the money, they are doing it to help family and children in need. There are multiple posts that the government should have stepped up and helped her find child care so she could deploy. Isn’t that was foster care is?
    Its not the ideal solution, but women fought hard to have the right to serve equally with men, and having to leave one’s children to deploy is something men have had to do for generations, if women are going to serve equally that is a sacrifice they will have to make too.

  36. Lea
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe this. Our society is just so damn broken. Where is this child’s extended family? (And by family I do not mean only those who are blood relations.) The only adults who care for this child are his mother and his grandmother? We all need more of a community than that! Of course I realize that caring for a young child is a huge obligation- but it seems to me that everyone deserves to have a significant number of people in their lives who would take up that obligation for them without hesitation, and vice versa. For this to happen is a sign to me of something even more deeply disturbing than widespread patriarchy- and that is widespread social poverty, by which I mean a lack of real community and human connection. How the hell are we supposed to even begin to fix anything when we are all so isolated from each other?

  37. Marc
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    Gregory – the thing is that there are other Soldiers who do want to deploy, and therea are always individual deployment slots for volunteers.
    I get that Soldiers sign up to fight, to do the military’s mission, but at the same time, we also have the responsibility to ensure that when mothers deploy, they can accomplish their missions without worries of what’s happening to their children.
    Quite frankly, “we’re better than other militaries” is not an excuse in this case. Yes, we are, but are there a lot of things wrong with our own military leadership? Absolutely. The right answer is to figure out what we can change to make things better – that’s called progress – and in military operations terms, “the revolution of military affairs.”
    The point is if we don’t adapt, we don’t grow as a military, and as histories show, militaries that don’t learn to adapt, whether in leadership and personnel matters or in wars, get their asses beat.

  38. Marc
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    Becauase she signed away her uterus the moment she signed the paperwork to serve her country.
    Do me a favor – don’t ever join the US military, because I sure as hell don’t want people who think like you in my Army.
    God knows we’re already full of them.

  39. Marc
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    And when her superior officers and NCO’s got pinned, they also promoised to take care of their Soldiers’ well being.

  40. Marc
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    I am not, but I’ve been called a “motha” many times. Does that count?

  41. Marc
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    Good point. I’ve known guys who have taken pills, claimed to be pacifists and all kinds of things, to get out of deployments.
    Yet, each time a woman gets pregnant prior to a deployment, the automatic assumption is that get got knocked up for that reason, and that reason only.
    This is, you now, because women are so stupid that they’ll trade 18 years of responsibilities to get out of a year long deployment, where they’ll probbably be fobbits anyway.
    Before anyone jumps all over me, the last line was clearly (or maybe not) sarcasm.

  42. A female Marine
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    I never understood that. Either they have absolutely NO clue what raising a kid is like, or they think women are SO stupid they will have one just to avoid deployment.
    Come to think of it, I bet that’s a big part of it: not realizing the enormity of raising a child. They think it’s a convenient, easy option and not signing your life over to a kid for 18 years…
    (or maybe jealousy, since they don’t have that “easy” out option!)

  43. kungfulola
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    “But the question is, do we put this same burden on men? I don’t think we do.”
    I absolutely agree with you. It is a continuing source of injustice that childrearing is still seen as “women’s work”.
    It just sticks in my craw when I see women throwing pearls before swine by continuing the lineage of men who have so few redeeming qualities and are patently unwilling to parent.

  44. aleks
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    I wasn’t advocating that Army Spc. Alexis Hutchinson be shot. I was pointing out that the military expects soldiers to go where they’re told to and is not inclined to take excuses.

  45. Marc
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 2:52 am | Permalink

    Cooks in the military work long hours, in addition to having to PT, do Soldierly tasks, and a host of other mundane stuff we’re too damned lucky to have to do.
    Then she turns around and comes home and takes care of her baby.
    That’s more work and responsibility than I am sure you’ve ever had to take on.
    What she gets paid stateside and in garrison hasn’t a damn thing to do with the compensation received while deployed. So, yes, she’s earning her paycheck.
    If I were you, I’d get to know what Soldiers really do, and learn about the benefits they receive for their work, before I’d run my mouth like that.

  46. Marc
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    Thanks for providing that other perspectives about the NCO’s and their views of her. From my own lens, I saw that the situation only happened because of shitbag NCO’s, but your perspective of NCO’s thinking she’s using this child as an “out” makes a lot of sense.
    And your mentioning of MRE’s is making me a bit hungry. It’s been, like, nine months since I last had one of those brown bags.
    In fact, I am going around hunting for a breakfast omelet MRE this afternoon!

  47. qtiger
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    The phrase is ‘Mission first, people always.’
    Yes, you take care of your Soldiers, but the mission must come first.

  48. qtiger
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    Even if you don’t “shoot guns” (BTW the only people in the Army that don’t fire weapons are Chaplains), you still deploy when and where the country needs you.

  49. qtiger
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    You are incorrect. When a woman in the military becomes pregnant, she has the option to leave.

  50. qtiger
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    In my last unit, a female put an ad on Craigslist to find a man so she could get pregnant specifically to avoid deployment. Thankfully, she stated that as her reason in the ad, which gave us all we needed to drop the hammer on her.

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