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."
Hutchinson's son, Kamani, was placed into custody overnight with a daycare provider on the Army post after she was arrested and jailed briefly, Larson said. Hutchinson's mother picked up the child a week ago and took him back to her home in California.
Hutchinson, who's assigned to the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, joined the Army in 2007 and had no previous deployments, Sussman said. She said Hutchinson is no longer in a relationship with the father.
The Army requires all single-parent soldiers to submit a care plan for dependent children before they can deploy to a combat zone.
Hutchinson had such a plan — her mother, Angelique Hughes, had agreed to care for the boy. Hughes said Monday she kept the boy for about two weeks in October before deciding she couldn't keep him for a full year.
Hughes said she's already having to care for her ailing mother and sister, as well as a daughter with special needs. She also runs a daycare center at her home, keeping about 14 children during the day.
"This is an infant, and they require 24-hour care," Hughes said. "It was very, very stressful, just too much for me to deal with."
Hughes said she returned Kamani to his mother in Georgia a few days before her scheduled deployment Nov. 5.
She said they told her daughter's commanders they needed more time to find another family member or close friend to help Hughes care for the boy, but Hutchinson was ordered to deploy on schedule.
Larson, the Army post spokesman, said officials planned to keep Hutchinson in Georgia as investigators gathered facts about the case.
"Spc. Hutchinson's deployment is halted," Larson said. "There will be no deployment while this situation is ongoing."
Russ Bynum has covered the military based in Georgia since 2001.
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