Thursday, November 19, 2009

The single Army mom who refused to deploy

Today, I read about the Army mom who refused to deploy to Afghanistan because she had nobody to care for her 10-month-old boy. As a result, she might face criminal charges. Alexis Hutchinson, 21, says the only family she had who could pitch in, her mom, was already caring for other relatives with healthy problems. According to her lawyer, one of her superiors knew about the situation, and said she'd have to deploy anyway—and put her son in foster care.

So Hutchinson, an Army cook, didn't show up for her flight.

An Army spokesperson's response: He didn't know what her commander had told her, but they wouldn't deploy a single mom without childcare.

The facts are still emerging with this story. But it's disturbing, isn't it?

It makes you think. About all the deployed moms and dads. And the sad state of childcare in our country. And what you'd do if you were in a similar situation.

I probably wouldn't have shown up, either.


  1. She'll get a hardship/general discharge after all is said and done. They won't make it easy for her because it sets a bad example. The soldier should have reported for deployment with her child instead of going AWOL--just not showing up--she wouldn't have been sent overseas or punished in that case.

    When child care fails, a humanitarian arrangement can be made and the soldier is placed in an administrative job for a few months, while she finds someone reliable to care for the child.

    However, this soldier knew from October that there was a problem, and she should have taken active steps to notify her chain of command, contact the father of the child for help (or his parents, if they are involved in the child's life), or find another relative to care for the child. If that didn't pan out, she should have asked for humanitarian reassignment for 3 to 6 months to allow for more time to find someone to provide care, or asked for a hardship discharge. By doing nothing and running away from the problem she left her unit short one cook, right at the holidays, when the only things to look forward to in Afghanistan are holiday meals.

    It's important to distinguish what the issues are here. The Army is very family friendly. A large percentage of Army personnel are married and/or have children. She knew what to do when her child care failed, but she did nothing.

    When you go into the Army with children, they make you execute a form that says, "When I deploy my kids will be cared for by so-and-so." "So-and-so" has to sign the form too, so it's not like "so-and-so" isn't aware of the arrangement. Usually, in a husband-wife scenario, one soldier is deployed while the other stays home. This is why spouses with children aren't in the same units. This is also how they work it with single parents when both soldiers are on active duty--one is assigned to a deployable unit, the other is not.

    This parent is no longer in a relationship with the father, and the mother of this soldier did sign the form agreeing to care for the grandson----but back in October, after taking care of the child for two weeks, she decided she couldn't do it. Between October, when her mother backed out on her, and the date of deployment, this soldier should have been filling out a request for humanitarian reassignment and informing her chain of command of her problem in writing. It looks like she practiced avoidance rather than be responsible. THAT is why she is in trouble, not because the Army is being mean to mommies.

    Everyone learns this procedure in basic training. Everyone who has a child has to fill out the deployment forms. They're handed to you by a counselor the day after you give birth. There's counseling that goes along with it and the rules are very clearly explained.

    It's not a shock or a surprise. Playing the "helpless card" is just not credible.

    It is curious that she knew enough to lawyer up, but was clueless when it came to the process involved in requesting relief due to hardship in this instance.

    The lifestyle isn't easy. The pay is good, but the job does involve deployment. She knew this when she signed up for the military, she was told again in basic training, she was reminded once again when she had her child and executed her dependency forms, and she knew she had a problem over a month ago when her mother said "I can't do this."

    The servicemember handled this very poorly. The Army is being made to look like the bad guys, but the portrayal is unfair. The irresponsible one is the mother of the child--if she did what she should have done, this story would never have appeared in any newspaper. She's trying to use the media to cover for her failure to follow basic, established procedure.

  2. Can I just tell you I *HATE* anonymous posters? I was in the Army, as was my husband (for 17 years)and I have to say, when it comes to deployment, they are NOT family friendly. I don't give a shit what anyone says. When my husband went to Iraq we had 3 days notice. 3 freaking days. How does one get their affairs in order in 3 days? Find proper care for their children? Did this soldier have more time to plan? Probably (to be honest, I have not read the story). And the sob story about them being short a cook. Give me a freaking break. I am sure they are the only unit over there. Speaking from experience, there are too many cooks and too many administratives, not enough soldiers. When my husband was in Iraq getting blown up by IED's his units cooks were sitting in air conditioning talking to their family on the phone every day.

    Screw you Mr or Mrs. Anonymous. Army pay sucks. Being deployed sucks. And I have been through a deployment. It all sucks. And they don't give a crap about your family. A soldier is owned by the Army. The Army comes way before family. They tell you that from day 1 in boot camp.

  3. Oh, and just to husband was a platoon seargant (E-7) so it isn't like he just had his skeeter wings and no one told him anything. No one was told a damn thing about when they were leaving until a Friday evening at about 7 pm...they were gone on Tuesday. Nice.

  4. AND one more thing...

    The Army will take just about anyone. Your I.Q. doesn't have to be stellar to sign your name on the dotted line. I was beyond belief at the stupidity of people I saw while in basic. People that should have never been enlisted. Will most of those get weeded out, yes. But there are those that slip through the cracks. And they don't understand deployment, or what it really means to be in the Army. The Army isn't full of 'stupid' people, but there are plenty of them. I think this girl may fit the bill for that. They think it is a job with a paycheck and possibly free housing. They don't understand the full responsibility.

    I think I am done now...slowly stepping down from my soap box. I am sure I will hop back on later though! :)

  5. Wow, see our experience with the army has been that it is VERY family friendly.
    They allowed Jeremy to delay leaving for training in the first few weeks after Connor was born when things weren't looking so good. They moved us to an area that had all of Connor's medical care, and when orders have come up that would move us to a different area they have changed them so that we can stay where we are.
    They've paid over a million dollars for Connor's medical care so far, and they gave Jeremy the option of a job back at home when the unit was deploying.
    I have to say that our experience tallies much more with Anonymous' comment than with Sarah's. Just goes to show that everyone's experience is different, I guess!


  6. I agree with Anon in that she knew a long time in advance and there are steps to take when you are facing an issue like this. Quite honestly if I were a single parent there is no way I would be in the military, I would want to be around to see my kids every day and not have to hope I can come up with childcare for months at a time for them.

    It annoys me when I read stories like this, you knew this could happen when you joined up so get over it and if you can't then get out of the military.

    btw my husband is in the military so I do know what I am talking about.

  7. Sarah, you need to get a life. You were in the Army? You should know better. Why do I think you're not in now--and you're not missed, either?

    Since you know so much, you should also know that this woman was granted six to eight weeks of paid maternity leave after giving birth, that she was on limited duty from her 20th week of pregnancy, that she was deferred from deployment automatically for four months ^^and^^ she had the option of leaving the service as a consequence of pregnancy--but she chose to stay, knowing that the Army was in deployment mode. How long have we been deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan? This isn't a surprise to anyone.

    How fortunate for you that you were so much smarter than your basic training peers. Sorry, I am not impressed at your husband's rank--I am never impressed by anyone who wears their husband's rank. You didn't earn it, he did--it doesn't help your argument.

    And I'll stay anonymous, because you're plainly overwrought, and overwrought people sometimes get stalker-ish. Not that "Sarah H" on the internet is any more of an identifier than "Anonymous."

    I rather doubt you'd be so belligerent face-to-face.

    The Army has some of the best family policies going--way better than civilian businesses. They provide cheap, certified daycare, employment assistance for spouses, family services, free medical and dental, six months paid holiday after you have a child, and you get to come back to your job with no loss of seniority--you don't get that at Taco Bell. Oh, and fathers get **ten days** of non-chargeable paternity leave, and mothers get up to two months of uncharged leave (in addition to the 30 days annual leave everyone gets).

    And their medical care? Try having a kid with special needs while on active duty -- they go to the wall for parents of kids who need specific medical treatments. They even adjust assignments for parents who need to be close to major medical facilities.

    Also, Sarah--no one is ^^drafted^^ into the Army. You make the choice to join. No one forced this soldier to sign up.

    Have a nice day, "Sarah H"...I won't return your childish "screw you" comments. I'll let facts speak for themselves, and you haven't provided anything but personal anecdote and nasty attitude.

    Get some help for that inability to discuss an issue maturely. And get your facts in order: No one was drafted, here; the soldier had the **choice** to leave the Army when she became pregnant (you forgot to mention that important point), and there is a war going on, in case you didn't notice. She opted to stay and collect all the leave, medical care, and paychecks, and because she did that, she should have played by the rules.

  8. Edit: six to eight ---weeks-- paid holdiay after you have a child.

  9. Sorry, not wearing my husbands rank on my sleeve. I was in the military, but only for a short time. They couldn't wait to get rid of me when they found out I had muscular dystrophy and didn't tell me. Instead they scared me into signing a piece of paperwork that said I agreed to getting a medical discharge and it was a pre-existing condition. THey also said that if I didn't sign it I would be stuck there until I was cured. I never had any symptoms until I got to basic training. And I have since actually been diagnosed.
    I never did say I was smarter than all my peers. But there were plenty I went to basic training with that should have never been there. We had one girl that couldn't figure out why she bled from her bottom every month. She lived with her grandparents. She still wet the bed. Another girl still wet the bed and sucked her thumb. And a few others that were also questionable as to how they got recruited. It still boggles my mind.
    All of this being said, I still support the Army. I was proud as proud could be to put on that uniform. And I am proud of my husband and his accomplishments. He is an amazing man. The military isn't all bad. There are some positive aspects to it. And some nice benefits. But your attack on the soldier made me want to immediately defend her due to my experience with the military and my husbands deployment.
    Maybe I should clarify by saying we were both National Guard. Same training, we just don't live on a base and we have civilian life. So maybe if my husband and I were not such slackers and actually joined the real Army I wouldn't have these complaints.

  10. Wow, Ellen, you stirred up a bees' nest. I do think it's interesting to note how the media filters information. On first take the army does look like the bad guy but I'm more inclined to agree with Anonymous.

    I do think Sarah had a valid point, not necessarily in regards to this incident, but even more savvy potential soldiers can get turned around by recruiter promises, and all the fine print involved. Being uneducated and ignorant or lacking the intelligence to make choices hasn't always deterred the military from recruiting and retaining soldiers. During the Vietnam war, during the draft, a disproportionate amount of poor, uneducated black men were sent oversees to be cannon fodder. Today, soldier suffering from PTSD, in dire need of treatment, are sent for multiple tours only to come home and blow their wife's head off, then their own. Nadal Hasan was a documented lousy, lousy physician and yet he was still treating patients because there is a terrible lack of psychiatrists serving. I suppose that's a digression. But I'm just saying, the military doesn't always make the best call on who is capable of serving.

    In this case, however, just by her contacting a lawyer, it makes me think her intelligence wasn't impaired in any way. She screwed up and now she doesn't want to "pay the piper."

    On another side note, it's interesting to hear opinions about the Army and family. We're (my husband) are seriously considering joining the Army to help offset the cost of medical school and having a child with disabilities. Life changing decision to join up. Yikes.

  11. Gah! That last post by "Doug" was actually me "Heather" unwittingly signed into his account. Don't you love his picture? Don't you want to see him representing the military or being your doc?

  12. We are a military family. My husband is currently serving in the Middle East. It's his 3rd deployment. We are parents of 3children, including our 5-year-old son who has cerebral palsy and a heart condition.

    Overall, we have been pleased with the military's care and consideration. Nothing is perfect, but we are proactive and advocate for our son and our family as much as possible. We have been able to be stationed where my son can get the care he needs. And as far as equipment, therapies, and medication-- my son wants for nothing thanks to our insurance.

    It's unrealistic to avoid being deployed in this day and time, so naturally we plan for it. It's all on par with being a part of today's military.

  13. Sarah H--There is a profound difference between regular Army and National Guard. Guard and Reserve personnel, particularly at the outset of the 911 fiasco, were not given the support services that regular personnel on active duty received. There is still a difference, due to the distance of so many Guard/Reserve families from military bases, but support to Guard/Reserve personnel has improved profoundly over the past eight years.

    I don't understand your "slacker" comment. There is a difference between the way Guard/Reservists and active duty personnel serve, but they're all volunteers and each contribution is valued. Your resentment and pique about your branch of service in contrast to regular Army are clearly a product of your personal experience, but most people who understand the military personnel system don't have that sort of attitude. It's unproductive. It takes all components under the Department of Defense umbrella, to include every branch of service and civilians working for the department, to prosecute the mission.

    Further, and most importantly, I did not "attack" this woman. Do read what I actually wrote. I provided simple facts about how a pregnant woman, any pregnant woman, in the Army knows what the "deal" is, how that woman has options--to include getting out; and how this woman missed a number of opportunities to do the right thing and follow the established procedure. One cannot have one's cake and eat it, too. It's obvious this is what the woman was trying to do--get the limited duty for four months or so, get the paid for delivery, dependents' housing, and two months of leave, get the deferred deployment, and then, at the last minute, just.... not show up?

    She knew better. She did it anyway, and cravenly played her "But I'm a MOMMY" card to plead for sympathy at the last minute, instead of notifying her chain of command that she had a dependent care problem back in October. She **was** negligent. That's not an "attack," that is a fact.

    And in so doing, she tarnished responsible mothers who serve with the "flaky" brush. She gave an argument to the people who don't like women in uniform because they're neanderthals and sexists.

    If a poor quality recruit arrives at basic, the fault lies with poor medical screening at the MEPS, or the recruiter (who does face consequences as result of wasting eight to ten thousand dollars, which is what an average "washout" costs the government). Many recruiters, especially after 911, were under a lot of pressure and were processing sub-par recruits because they were being browbeaten to produce recruits.

    It is important for anyone thinking about joining the services to understand that verbal promises mean nothing. If you don't get it in writing from a recruiter, from someone offering you a career specialty or an assignment location, it isn't a promise--it's pure possibility. If you do get the guarantees in writing, though, the services are obligated to follow through.

    Enuresis is a disqualifying condition. Those recruits in your company with that problem would be weeded out.

  14. Wow. Lots of good points here. I do have to share that one of my closest friend's husbands is in the Navy. He was deployed last week for the 3rd time. And while it is very sad to have him go - it is a conscious choice that he made. He was given warning of his deployment and time off with his family before hand. The experience has been as positive as it can be, considering we are in wartime now. I have nothing but admiration for the incredible sacrifices made by the military.

  15. Wow! I detonated a bomb in my blog and didn't realize it till now. Yes, good points here all around. I am not excusing this mom for breaking the law. Nor was I putting down the Army's approach to childcare. I just
    had a gut reaction to her situation—having to deploy and not knowing who will care for your child. That, I can't imagine.

  16. I agree with Conner's Mom. My husband has served in the Marine Corp and the Army and the Army has been nothing but family friendly. When Romy was in the hospital they gave him free reign of his own schedule so he could spend as much time with her as possible. They also delayed his deployment by THREE months so he could spend time with his sick daughter. Not to mention they covered her million (seriously) dollar medical bill and all of her equipment which we all know is VERY pricey.

    Are there stupid people in the military? Of course there are, there's dumb people everywhere. It's kind of offensive that Sarah thinks the Army is riddled with them.

    Army pay isn't great, but it's enough to live and raise a family on, but if you join the military for the pay, than it's for the wrong reason completely.

    I think it boils down to lack of communication between this Mother and her command. If there was better communication than this would have never happened.

    Well, that's just my two cents.


Thanks for sharing!

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