OAKLAND — Next week, Alexis Hutchinson, a 21-year-old Army specialist from Oakland, will return to her base in Georgia and the decision that awaits her for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because she did not have enough time to make care plans for her infant son — a common situation among troops stretched thin from fighting wars on two fronts.
Hutchinson, an Army cook, was confined 45 days to the Hunter Army Airfield for "alleged misconduct" before being released to spend Christmas with her son, who will have his first birthday Monday. No charges have been filed.
She could receive an "other than honorable" discharge — roughly the equivalent of a bad-conduct discharge — for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan with the rest of her unit Nov. 5 after child care plans for her then 10-month-old son, Kamani, fell through.
"It was just me and my baby," Hutchinson said Monday at her mother's East Oakland home, where she has been on leave since Dec. 21.
"I was given a choice to get in a plane or be with my son," Hutchinson said, adding that other service members with families have experienced similar situations.
"Right now it's all about numbers," Hutchinson said. "They just want more bodies over there."
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Nathan Banks said the Army is "quite aware of the situation."
"This is not the first time this has happened," he said.
Banks said soldiers either have to find another caregiver or leave the Army under an "other than honorable" discharge if family care plans fall through. "Unfortunately," he said, "it happens."
A family care plan is crucial, Banks added, and is required of all single-parent soldiers or couples who could face simultaneous deployment. The situation is more difficult because soldiers are being deployed multiple times to Afghanistan and Iraq, Banks said.
An "other than honorable" discharge would allow Hutchinson, who said her family care plan was botched, to separate from the Army with the loss of some benefits. Either way, Hutchinson, who joined the ROTC as a freshman at Fremont High School, expects to become a civilian in February.
"We're waiting to figure out what is going to happen," said Hutchinson's civilian attorney, Rai Sue Sussman. "Her child care issues are still not resolved. We're hoping to resolve it administratively. We would be happy for an honorable or general discharge."
Hutchinson joined the Army in 2007 and gave birth in January of this year. She had intended to leave her son with her mother, Angelique Hughes, in Oakland. Her mother soon realized, however, that she was unable to take care of Kamani. Hutchinson said she has no contact with Kamani's father or his family.
The Army told Hutchinson they would give her more time to find suitable arrangements for her child but then this month told her she would not get the extended time and would have to deploy even though she was scheduled to be discharged for medical reasons.
Just before her scheduled deployment to Afghanistan in November, she went AWOL for less than 24 hours and returned voluntarily, her lawyer said. She was arrested by the military Nov. 6 for being absent without leave, and the Army placed her son in child protective services. Hutchinson's mother flew to Georgia to pick up Kamani and brought him back to Oakland.
Hutchinson and her son will return to Hunter Airfield on Jan. 6 when her leave ends.
"It all comes down to me not getting on a plane," Hutchinson said. "I can fight it, but I don't want to. One way or the other, I will be out in February."
Chris Metinko and John Simerman contributed to this story.