Monday, November 16, 2009

How the Army Supports the Troops...

"Well, you're just going to have to put your child in foster care."

This is what Spc. Alexis Hutchinson claims one of her superiors told her when she was unable to find a family member to care for her infant son for the duration of her deployment to Afghanistan.

Kevin Larson, a spokesman for Hunter Army Airfield, denies this. While he admits that he personally does not know what Spc. Hutchinson was told by her superiors, he claims the Army would never require a single parent with no one else to support their child to deploy overseas and force the child into the foster care system.

Army regulations do require a single parent-soldier to submit an official plan for child care before deployment to a combat zone. So the law-on-paper backs Mr. Larson's statements.

The trouble is, actual events appear to contradict the actual Army regulations on the issue... as well as Larson's statement.

Knowing that she had to deploy on Nov 5th, Spc. Hutchinson had made arrangements for her mother to care for her infant son. Citing other responsibilities (caring for an ailing mother and sister, a daughter with special needs, and running a 14 child daycare center), the specialist's mother returned the child to his mother just days before she was to deploy. Spc. Hutchinson contacted her superiors and simply requested more time to make alternate arrangements... a highly reasonable request. Unfortunately, it does not appear that her commanders were feeling reasonable.

According to the AP:

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.


This is in violation of Army regulations and policy as described by the base's own spokesman, Mr. Larson. Someone dropped the ball, badly, and Spc. Hutchinson is now paying the price.

Unwilling to place her child in foster care with the attendant risk of not seeing the child again (putting a child into the system is vastly easier than taking them out), Spc. Hutchinson felt that she had no choice but to refuse deployment. She was arrested and briefly jailed. Currently, she is facing charges.

There is no doubt that Spc. Hutchinson is guilty of being absent without leave and disobeying an order. A court martial trying the case solely on the facts has no choice but to convict her. So now Spc. Hutchinson is not only a single mother, but a felon to boot.

Obviously, I believe deliberate clemency is required in this case. I think a plea agreement allowing Spc. Hutchinson to receive a general, rather than dishonourable, discharge and avoid criminal prosecution entirely is more than fair. While I understand why the military cannot ignore her offense entirely for important reasons of military discipline, she was forced into a necessary and legitimate act of civil disobedience by an order that was in contravention of Army policy and may have actually been illegal.

My reason for writing, however, is to present a challenge. The champions of family values should all take a moment to stop crusading against the individual civil liberties of gay Americans and stand up for the integrity of this actual family. If Spc. Hutchinson goes to the stockade it will be because she believed her family values to be the most important values in her life. Stand up for her family values. The champions of 'saving the children' should all take a moment to stop crusading against abortion to stand up for an actual living child whose mother did not have an abortion and has put her own freedom on the line to guarantee he remains with a loving family. Save that child.

9 comments:

democommie said...

I'm sorry, but I can't speak up for her rights. I'm not sure if you've noticed but she's non-w.., I mean, umm, she's not "one of us". /snark.

Yep, typical of our loving KKKristian values folks. I don't think you'll be hearing a whole lot from FotF or the AFA. And if you do, it will be a soundbite for a fundraising campaign--for themselves.

Please tell me that this child's father is out of the picture due to something other than battlefield trauma.

Anonymous said...

A woman joins the military with the virtual guarentee she will be deployed. She is the rank of specialist which tells me she has been in the Army at least a year meaning she got pregnant while in the Army and had her child while in the Army, knowing she would someday have to deploy. Rather than have to pay for schooling to learn a skill, she got her training at the Army's expense and received a paycheck. She had her child at the Army's expense without having to pay a cent of co-pay. Then, when her flight is scheduled, when her unit is counting on her not to leave them short-handed, she has to delay because her mom woke up one morning to a 14 child daycare operation and a special needs child. Why is foster care not good enough for someone who chose to have a child knowing she would be deployed. I've been a foster parent, get a child in the middle of the night because mom got arrested, two months later mom gets out of jail and gets her kids back. Other times, for longer term situations, I cared for children until arragements were made for a relative to get them. How did going to jail benifit Spc. Hutchinson's child care situation over doing her sworn duty as a soldier. I'll tell you how, it kept her out of a dangerous war zone. I don't know if she or her mom deliberately did this to try to get her out of an area she'd more likely be shot at, but if she didn't do it on purpose she should have planned ahead more. If she was so damned concerned about the quality care of her child she might have considered the implications before spreading her legs to get pregnant. Textbook liberal senario, demand all the rights of living any lifestyle you want and then shirk the responsiblities. Spc. Hutchinson, you made the choice to join the Army, you took an oath to do your duty, you made a choice to get pregnant, foster care was there to back you up when your plan failed. Now get on that plane or go to jail. Mike Hatcher

Chris Richards said...

democommie,

The article merely says that Spc. Hutchinson and the child's father are no longer in contact. This is hardly a rare story anymore, sadly, and not just in 'ethnic' circles. Living in the part of the Tennessee/Kentucky/Virginia/North Carolina nexus that I do I've found this is quite a common problem among 'us' as well.


'Why is foster care not good enough for someone who chose to have a child knowing she would be deployed. I've been a foster parent, get a child in the middle of the night because mom got arrested, two months later mom gets out of jail and gets her kids back.'

Mike... getting kids back out of the foster care system is not cut and dried. Once kids are in foster care they are 'in the system.' Once kids are 'in the system' they don't just come out again because someone wants them back. It is real easy to put kids into the foster care system and really hard to get them out again. Parents who never had to prove their fitness to be parents before kids go into the system have to prove their fitness to get them back after.

I have some passing knowledge of how CPS works. It can be very difficult for a loving and responsible single mother to get her kids back out of foster care if she cannot prove that she can 'provide for them' and 'provide a stable home.' A single parent on military pay and liable to future deployment can have a hard time proving either, let alone both. Furthermore, not all kids in foster care end up with foster parents. Many of them end up in group care homes which vary radically in quality, as indeed do foster parents.

Finally, you are assuming facts not in evidence... and assigning speculative motives to Spec. Hutchinson which not even the Army claims to be the case.

Spc. Hutchinson has responsibility as a soldier and a responsibility as a mother. She attempted to take care of both by arranging for her mother to care for her child. Is her mother partly to blame? Certainly, but her mother was not arrested because her mother could not fulfill her promise.

She then attempted to fulfill both responsibilities by delaying her deployment until she could make new arrangements for her child. One can read from the story that she did so properly, through channels, and was given an answer in contravention of stated Army policy.

Under the circumstances, she chose to put her responsibility as a mother first. These are the 'family values' of which the right wing likes to preach. She put her own freedom at risk to make certain her child would be cared for.

Those are the facts. Assigning cowardly motives to those facts, without the evidence to support the supposition, is an expression of your own predispositions. It says more about you than her, though I am still trying to decide just what that is.

Anonymous said...

You are right about me not having any facts that indicate Spc. Hutchinson or her mom was motivated by fear. I offered it not only as a possible explaination of why she acted the way she did, but also to allude to why the Army can't let parents, be they single or not, dictate when they can or can't be deployed. When it is time to go, it is time to go. You want the Army to charter a special flight to bring her a couple days later? I'm making other assumptions also. I assumed she chose to get pregnant. That is a fact not in evidence, for all I know she could have been raped. But I'm not her prosecutor, I'm discussing an issue. Generally speaking, which may not include Spc. Hutchinson's case, it is a bad idea to choose to be a single soldier and have a baby. When I was deployed to Saudi Arabia prior to the invasion of Iraq in the first Gulf war, I was amazed at how many women in our unit got pregnant during the 6 months prior to the actual invasion. It is very possible because of boredom and/or lack of contraceptives the pregnancy rate was higher there than in garrison, but it made me wonder if some were hoping to get pregnant just to get sent back home. IMO I didn't see Spc. Hutchinson displaying "right family values" in getting herself into the position of a deploying single parent who values the quality of a child's care above all else. I know the classic dodge of losing an argument is to change the subject. That being said, if I can go off on a completely different tangent. Your comments of getting a child into foster care being a lot harder than getting a child out touchs on a theme that I have about government managed health care insurance, once they get people in that program, I'd like to see how easy it will be to get out of it. It will be just another government trap like a lot of so called help programs. P.S. I do enjoy the depth of thought you go with in your articles, as frequently as I oppose your conclusions, I appreciate the work you spend in expounding on the reasoning behind your statements. None of this: "Fox news are a bunch of liars and you are an idiot if you watch it." stuff, but rather well thought out arguments.Mike Hatcher

Chris Richards said...

Men and women in close proximity are going (not in every case, obviously, but in enough cases to make a difference) to have some sex. Many men do not even think of the possibility of the women with whom they sleep getting pregnant, even when they utterly fail to make use of condoms. Many sexually inexperienced people in their late teens or early twenties, men and women, fail to take the likelihood of pregnancy into account when swept up in the heat of passion. So there are a lot of people who get pregnant without choosing to get pregnant without rape even being part of the equation.

Men can escape the unwanted consequences of irresponsible sex relatively easily. All they have to do is dump the girl. Women are stuck with the situation. They must frequently choose between the difficult and unappealing options of an unplanned/unwanted child, an abortion, or a physically exhausting childbirth followed by an emotionally taxing adoption. None of these choices are particularly good for mother or child.

Here we have a case of a mother who, whatever the circumstances of her conception, made what conservatives would call 'the right choice' and had the baby rather than choosing abortion. This is precisely what many on the right claim to mean when they speak of 'family values.'

Furthermore, up to the moment she refused to deploy, she did everything 'right.' She made arrangement for the child, contacted her superiors when those arrangements fell through, and attempted to work through channels. Under the circumstances, I'm inclined to think better of her rather than worse. It simply strikes me as the safer assumption given the available evidence.

I'd also note that the military flies lots of planes to Afghanistan on a very regular basis. While I understand the point you were trying to make, delaying her deployment by a week while she made new child care arrangements would not constitute an undue burden on the military.

I myself have said that she is technically guilty of military crimes and that she should probably be tossed out. At the same time, she would not have been in a position to /need/ to commit any crimes at all if her superiors had followed what /the Army base's own spokesman/ claims is Army policy: that single parents are not deployed overseas without proper arrangements for child care made.

I don't think committing someone's child to the foster care system when the child has a mother clearly doing her best by that child is 'proper arrangements.' Those are my 'family values.'

While I appreciate your effort, I don't recognize the equivalency you are trying to make between child care and health care as valid. If you were comparing health care reform to federally funded preschool, that would be one thing. The foster care system is something else entirely.

Anonymous said...

Just briefly, I agree there really is no comparing health care reform to foster care, I was, as I mentioned going off on a tangent, just the idea of how controlling one system can be is how I believe another system (health care) will be someday. I also found out what Hutchinson's specialty was: Cook. If there is ANY occupation I'd have a hard time making an argument for her being delayed, I think cook would top that list. Talk about non-critical, troops have MRE's for goodness sake. That takes a big bite out of my case for not allowing her another week to work things out. I think I could go along with your recommendation of discharging her from the military without jail time other than time served. Mike Hatcher

Chris Richards said...

More than just the MREs... we pay McDonald's billions of dollars to pay civilian fast food workers twenty dollars an hour to provide food service for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Possibly more than we pay Halliburton. ;)

democommie said...

Chris:

Sorry, I missed this conversation. The young lady in question, if the facts are as reported, has a major beef with the army. I'm sorry if my last comment:

"Please tell me that this child's father is out of the picture due to something other than battlefield trauma."

was unclear. I meant that it would be exceedingly ironic if the reason she's a single mother is because her husband was a casualty of the war.

As for Mike Hatcher's supposition about her pregnancy and her service timelines; she may have gotten pregnant, entirely without malice aforethought. She may have also been in the reserves. As for her knowing that she would be deployed, I expect recruiters, in this day, are exactly as disingenuous (read that as liars) as they were during the time I was in the Air Force.

Chris Richards said...

'As for her knowing that she would be deployed, I expect recruiters, in this day, are exactly as disingenuous (read that as liars) as they were during the time I was in the Air Force.'

I don't have much recent experience. I know that the Air Force recruiters who helped Claire Chennault find pilots for the 'Flying Tigers' (if one can believe the autiobiography of ex-Flying Tiger Greg Boyington) were telling pilots that the Japanese were so inbred from living on their islands for so long that they all had major vision defects and their pilots couldn't fly without heavy glasses. They inflated the 'kill money' being offered to sound like it was quite a lot, but very few of the Tigers' missions involved heavy dogfighting and the actual money came to very little.

Boyington said the smaller bonuses per kill for active duty Navy/Marine pilots once the US actively entered the war were so much more frequent than the bigger bonuses Chennault was offering that Tigers were 'deserting' to rejoin the Navy and Marine Corps.

And Chennault wasn't stretched to the end of his rope for available, suitable manpower the way the US Army is now.