fort hood senior officers punished

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Fort Hood, the Army’s Armored Corps base, is under intensified scrutiny after the Army announced Tuesday that investigations into the 31 soldier deaths that occurred in 2020 will result in the punishment of 14 senior officers.

According to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, the issues at Fort Hood (including sexual harassment and sexual assault) are “directly related to leadership failure.”

“I directed the relief and or suspension of commanders and other leaders from the corps to the squad level,” he said, specifying that a total of 14 senior officers “have been relieved or suspended from their positions.”

The probe was initiated after the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old Small Arms/Artillery Repairer who went missing on April 20, 2020. In later June, Guillen’s remains were found in a shallow grave near the Leon River, Bell County, Texas. Investigators later determined that Guillen was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in the armory where she worked before her body was moved off of the base by her killer.

Officials deemed their main suspect in the investigation to be Spc. Aaron David Robinson, but the 20-year-old soldier killed himself on July 1 after police confronted him. The Guillen family attorney, Natalie Khawam, stated that Guillen had planned to file a harassment complaint against Robinson on April 23. It is believed that Robinson became enraged when she told him while the two were on the base on April 22, thereby serving as a potential motive for her murder.

“The initial investigation into Vanessa’s death, coupled with high numbers of crimes and deaths at Fort Hood, has revealed a series of missteps and multiple failures in our system and within our leadership,” McCarthy said on Tuesday.

The outside independent review of Fort Hood revealed that the culture at the base is being examined with a critical eye. Furthermore, the review suggested that the wellbeing of the nearly 37,000 service members within the 60,000 person population is not being properly taken care of. The review also outlined specific concerns about how the base has handled searches for soldiers who have gone missing as well as cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“During the review period, no Commanding General or subordinate echelon commander chose to intervene proactively and mitigate known risks of high crime, sexual assault and sexual harassment. The result was a pervasive lack of confidence in the [Sexual Harassment/Assault response and Prevention] program and an unacceptable lack of knowledge of core SHARP components regarding reporting and certain victim services,” the report stated.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee applauded the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee’s investigative efforts and subsequent discovery of a “deficient climate” on the base.

“We must restore our soldiers’ faith and trust in their commanding officers, their unit and their service,” the panel’s GOP chairman, Sen. Jim Inhofe, and top Democrat, Sen. Jack Reed wrote.

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