Army Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, a cook stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, who missed a scheduled deployment last year, faces charges of missing movement, absence without leave, dereliction of duty and insubordinate conduct toward a noncommissioned officer.
Hutchinson, 21, a single mother, was due to deploy with her unit to Afghanistan in early November.
Her supporters say she missed her deployment flight because she didn’t have childcare for her then 10-month old son, Kamani. Hutchinson had reportedly arranged for her mother to care for her infant, but the arrangement fell through days before the soldier’s scheduled deployment.
Jeff Patterson, project director for Courage to Resist, said on the group’s Web site that Hutchinson feared losing custody of her son if she left.
"The Army initially gave Spc. Hutchinson an extension of time to find someone else to care for her son, and in the meantime her mother brought Kamani back to Georgia," Patterson wrote. "A few days before Spc. Hutchinson was scheduled to deploy, however, the extension was revoked. She was told that she would immediately deploy, and Kamani would be placed in the local county foster care system. Any option to put her child, Kamani, in government custody carries the risk of Spc. Hutchinson permanently giving up parental rights. Faced with that choice, Spc. Hutchinson did not show up for her plane."She contacted us because she felt she was going to end up in prison simply because she couldn’t find child care for her infant," Patterson said in a phone interview Wednesday. "The first thing we did was find her a lawyer, Rae Sue Sussman."
Sussman is a civilian attorney from the bay area of San Francisco, Calif. Hutchinson is an Oakland, Calif., native.
Sussman could not be reached for comment by press time.
Patterson said his organization hoped "calm heads would prevail" and that Hutchinson’s attorney and Army officials could resolve the situation administratively, without criminal charges being filed.
"We expected the Army to come up with some resolution that would be best for Alexis and her son, Kamani," he said.
Courage to Resist helped raise funds for Hutchinson to hire Sussman, and continues to raise funds for her legal defense.
"Now we must come up with more (funds) for the court martial proceedings, and all to keep a single mom out of a military stockade," Patterson said.
A statement released by Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield Public Affairs contends, "An accused soldier has the right to be represented by civilian counsel at no cost to the government, and by detailed military counsel at no expense to the accused."
Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said Hutchinson was "briefly" confined in November after missing her plane, but confirmed she is now living in the barracks with her child and reporting for duty at Hunter.
Larson said Hutchinson’s command did offer her child-care options when her plan fell through, but did not specify if those options included foster care, as was alleged by Courage to Resist.
"So far, Spc. Hutchinson has chosen not to take advantage of any of those options," Larson said. "A well-known veterans group was one of the groups offering to assist Spc. Hutchinson in caring for her child during her deployment. This group has an accredited child-care facility for soldiers in just these circumstances."
Larson would not name the veterans’ organization, saying it would be the group’s decision to publicly identify itself.
In addition, Larson said Army officials permitted Hutchinson two weeks of leave to spend the Christmas holidays with her family in California.
"That leave was extended so she could be home for her son’s (first) birthday as well," Larson added.