A 21-year-old Army specialist from Oakland who skipped out on her deployment date to Afghanistan has been ordered to remain on her base in Georgia for a review of "alleged misconduct," while her civilian attorney contends the soldier had no choice, with nowhere to keep her young baby.
Alexis Hutchinson was expected to deploy to Afghanistan with the rest of her unit Nov. 5. However, according to her attorney, Rai Sue Sussman, after plans to place her 10-month-old son, Kamani, fell through, the Army insisted she still deploy.
Hutchinson, who joined the Army in 2007, was stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia in early 2008 and gave birth in January.
Just before her scheduled deployment, she went AWOL for less than 24 hours and returned voluntarily, her lawyer said.
"The day before she was forced to deploy, they told her you have a choice to make, but your duty is to get on that plane," Sussman said. "She didn't have anyone to take care of her child. She thought they'd put her on a plane and take her child away."
Sussman said Hutchinson had intended to leave her son with her mother, Angelique Hughes, in Oakland. However, her mother soon realized she was unable to take care of Kamani, while also taking care of her special-needs daughter, her ailing mother and her ailing sister.
In late October, Sussman said the Army told Hutchinson they would give her more time to find suitable arrangements for her child, but then earlier this month told her she would not get the extended time after all and would have to deploy.
Sussman said when Hutchinson returned to the airfield she was arrested by the military Nov. 6, and the Army placed her son in child protective services. However, Hutchinson's mother has since flown to Georgia to pick up Kamani and has brought him back to Oakland.
Sussman said Hutchinson currently is confined to the airfield in Georgia, and faces up to a year in jail. However, an Army spokesman denied Hutchinson is under any confinement and has instead been ordered to stay on the installation until her commander can review her situation.
"Just days prior to her scheduled deployment, Specialist Hutchinson's commander received information that indicated that Specialist Hutchinson had engaged in misconduct," Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield spokesman Kevin Larson said in a statement. "Due to the fact that Specialist Hutchinson has a small child, her deployment was delayed so that the command could ensure Specialist Hutchinson's child was cared for and so that she could meet with legal counsel."
Larson added Hutchinson's commander is reexamining whether or not she will be able to deploy because her case could present a hardship.
In a release put out by Sussman, Hutchinson is quoted as saying: "It is outrageous that they would deploy a single mother without a complete and current family care plan. I would like to find someone I trust who can take care of my son, but I cannot force my family to do this. They are dealing with their own health issues."
Hutchinson is not a conscientious objector seeking to avoid deployment, her lawyer said.
John Simerman contributed to this story.