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Army lets mother deal with custody dispute

Woman initially declared AWOL won't have to return to Iraq

From Patty Davis
CNN Washington Bureau

Simone Holcomb, whose National Guard unit is in Iraq, is being demobilized.
Simone Holcomb, whose National Guard unit is in Iraq, is being demobilized.

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The Army is recalling a Colorado mother from duty in Iraq to allow her more time to deal with a custody dispute. CNN's Patty Davis reports (November 11)
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(CNN) -- In an about-face, an Army mother is being allowed to remain at home with her children instead of returning to duty in Iraq.

Simone Holcomb, a 30-year-old mother of seven and Army medic whose unit is in Iraq, has been reassigned by the Army to her National Guard unit in Colorado to allow her more time to deal with a custody dispute.

Army spokeswoman Martha Rudd said Holcomb is being demobilized.

"The leadership there will give her time to resolve the outstanding family issues," Rudd said.

Both Mrs. Holcomb and her husband, Vaughn Holcomb, had been deployed to Iraq, leaving their seven children behind in the care of the childrens' grandmother, who can no longer do it.

A custody battle initiated by her husband's ex-wife brought Simone Holcomb back to the U.S. on emergency leave.

She was thrust into the national spotlight after the Army ordered her to go back to Iraq, and a Colorado judge then ordered either Holcomb or her husband to stay in the United States to retain custody of two of his children -- Dustin and Taylor.

Holcomb resisted returning to Iraq for what she describes as family reasons.

"My children have always come first," she said last week.

Rudd said the National Guard will decide Holcomb's fate. The Army specialist was considered absent without leave, but is no longer.

Holcomb's lawyer, Giorgio Ra'Shadd, came to the Pentagon on Monday to try to reach a resolution. He asked for "compassionate reassignment."

The reassignment comes after Holcomb's commanding officer called her early Monday morning, said Ra'Shadd, to inform her she faces a non-judicial Article 15 disciplinary action for failure to obey the lawful order of a commanding officer and return to Iraq.

"I feel good for her and I feel good for the kids because the kids were very stressed," said Ra'Shadd.

However, he said the Article 15 disciplinary action remains in force and Holcomb intends to fight it.

"The commander in the field has her over the barrel," Ra'Shadd said, because the Article 15 could affect Holcomb's veterans benefits if it is not removed.

"They do have to clean up the Article 15," he said.

CNN producer Laurie Ure contributed to this report.


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