Military Mom May Face Court-Martial

Times Staff Writer

Spc. Simone Holcomb, a National Guard medic who defied orders and stayed home with her children after a custody battle rather than return to duty in Iraq, has been reassigned to Ft. Carson, Colo. But she still faces possible court-martial.

"The National Guard was working on a resolution to this problem," Giorgio Ra'Shadd, Holcomb's lawyer, said Tuesday. There was "a monkey wrench thrown into the works," he explained, when Holcomb's commander in Iraq called and insisted on an administrative punishment.

That means Holcomb's pay and rank could be reduced, and she also could be court-martialed, said Ra'Shadd, who was in Washington, D.C., talking to military officials and Colorado political leaders about the situation.

Holcomb, 30, and her husband, Vaughn, an Army sergeant, were both sent to Iraq in February; his mother came to Ft. Carson, near Colorado Springs, to care for their seven children.

After about eight months, the couple learned that Vaughn Holcomb's ex-wife was seeking custody of her two children. The Holcombs received an emergency leave, came home and prevailed in the custody battle. But they faced another problem: Vaughn Holcomb's mother said she could no longer stay with the children because her husband's cancer had grown worse.

A Colorado judge said one parent had to stay or they would lose custody of all of the children. Simone Holcomb volunteered. Shortly after, the military told her to be on a plane to Iraq on Oct. 9. Her requests for an emergency leave, a compassionate reassignment and a compassionate discharge were refused, she said.

In the end, she disobeyed the order and stayed with the children. Her lawyer said she was listed as absent without leave, or AWOL.

On Monday, Ra'Shadd went to the Pentagon and reached a deal for Holcomb to be reassigned to Ft. Carson. Holcomb, who lives on the base, showed up to get her tuberculosis test, the first step in being reassigned.

"Common sense is going to prevail in this matter," Ft. Carson spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Budzyna told Associated Press. "We are going to take care of this soldier."

Budzyna also said the reassignment would be backdated to Oct. 10, the day Holcomb was due in Iraq -- clearing her of the AWOL listing.

But her commander in Iraq, who was not identified, wrote and then called her Monday.

"They gave her the Article 15 punishment, which means that 'I am the commander and I think you are wrong and I am going to punish you,' " Ra'Shadd said. "You can take away their pay, you can restrict them, you can reduce them from a specialist to a private. They told her they will do any or all of the above and are awaiting her response."

Holcomb could accept the punishment and get on with her life or decline it and face a court-martial, the lawyer said.

"Her response is that she is declining it," he said. "She is charged with willful disobedience, but that means she had a choice. Under Colorado law, she had no choice."

Holcomb, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, "is not taking this well," Ra'Shadd said. "We thought we had a deal."

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