Fort Hood Leaders Punished as Probe Finds Widespread Sexual Violence, Rape at Army Base

By Elias Marat

The U.S. Army has fired or suspended 14 leaders at the Fort Hood military base in Texas over widespread patterns of violence there including murder, rape, sexual assault and harassment.

In an independent review of the climate command at the base, investigators discovered a “permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment,” according to a report released by the Army on Tuesday.

The investigation into problems at the base was launched following the disappearance and killing of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén earlier this year by Spc. Aaron Robinson, who bludgeoned her to death with a hammer in a Fort Hood armory room in April. Robinson later took his own life on July 1 when police tried to take him into custody.

Prior to her murder, Guillén had informed relatives and colleagues at the base that she was sexually harassed at Fort Hood. The case is still being investigated.

“The murder of Guillen shocked our conscience and brought attention to deeper problems,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said at a news conference at a Pentagon news conference on Tuesday. He added that it “forced us to take a critical look at our systems, our policies, and ourselves.”

McCarthy said the “issues at Fort Hood are directly related to leadership failures.” Fort Hood ranks among the highest in the Army in terms of its rates of murder, sexual assault and harassment in the Army, McCarthy added.

Officials at the time claimed that there were no credible reports or information on the sexual assault of Guillén. However, the allegations surrounding the circumstances of her death prompted an outpouring of service members sharing their own ordeals with sexual assault and harassment under the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen.

Those leaders who were fired or suspended include Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt, who was the acting commander at the base when Guillén’s death occurred. Efflandt, Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander and command sergeant major, were all relieved from command.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny, 1st Cavalry Division commanding general and command sergeant major, were suspended. The names of the battalion level and below commanders and leaders who received administrative disciplinary measures were not released, reports NBC News.

Members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, which is comprised of five civilians including three former Army officers, interviewed 647 soldiers at Fort Hood, including 503 women.

The women were hesitant to speak out about their experiences with sexual harassment at the Texas base out of fear of reprisal.

“What we found was that there was a fear of retaliation, all forms of retaliation, stigmatism, ostracism, derailing a career and work assignments,” said committee chairman Chris Swecker.

“One of the things that the soldiers at Fort Hood, what many of them needed was to be believed, and that’s what we did. We listened to them,” said committee member Carrie Ricci, who was a former Judge Advocate General’s Corps officer that worked at Fort Hood for three years. “If any of them see this, I want them to know we believe you.”

A statement from the Army said “when a senior leader loses trust and confidence in a subordinate commander or leader, it is appropriate and necessary to relieve that person.”

McCarthy also said that the Army would adopt a new policy that maximizes efforts to find soldiers who disappear. Commanders will now be required to classify missing soldiers as “absent-unknown” for up to 48 hours while doing all that they can to find the soldier to determine whether their absence is voluntary before they are declared AWOL, or absent without leave.

The release of Tuesday’s report comes after a year that saw 25 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood die from either suicide, homicide, or accidents, reports the Associated Press.

Source: The Mind Unleashed

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