Fort Hood has been in the news a lot lately for the wrong reasons. As a result, the Army had decided to initiate a probe to investigate murders and deaths on the post. Now, the Army has decided to punish 14 officers over the results of the probe.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said that the issues on the sprawling base “were directly related to leadership failures.”
“I directed the relief and or suspension of commanders and other leaders from the corps to the squad level,” McCarthy said, adding that 14 senior officers “have been relieved of suspended from their positions.”
The probe was initiated after the disappearance and murder of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén earlier this year. Guillén reported to her family that she’d been sexually harassed on the base. An internal investigation reported that they had found no credible information or reports that Guillén had been sexually harassed. However, her allegations and murder prompted many service members to share their experiences with sexual assault and harassment on social media using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen.
Then, in July, Army Secretary McCarthy then ordered a civilian panel of five members to conduct an independent investigation looking into the command climate and culture on the base after Guillén’s disappearance.
The panel spent nearly three weeks at Fort Hood this summer and conducted 80 group interviews, which encompassed over 1,800 soldiers, as well as 647 individual interviews as part of the independent investigation. The panel’s report was released this Tuesday.
Chris Swecker, the panel’s chairman, stated that they interviewed 503 female soldiers. “What we found was that there was a fear of retaliation, all forms of retaliation, stigmatism, ostracism, derailing a career and work assignments,” he said.
Because of the fear of retaliation, the panel found that although 93 credible accounts of sexual assault were identified, only 59 of them were reported. The panel also found 135 credible instances of sexual harassment, but only 72 of them were reported. “Some of the accounts of unreported sexual assault were extremely serious and had a significant impact on the victim’s health and well-being,” the panel’s report said.
Army CID and the Directorate of Emergency Services on Ft. Hood, contributed “very little analysis, feedback and general situational awareness to the command” in reducing crime on the base. The panel recommended that the Army initiate 70 changes on the post. McCarthy acknowledged that the Army will institute all 70.
The scathing report found that officials on the base had created a “permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment.” The report can be read in its entirety here.
McCarthy’s decision resulted in one of the largest disciplinary actions even taken by the service, an Army officer told CNN.
Among the disciplined leaders is MG Scott L. Efflandt, who was the acting Fort Hood commander at the time of Guillén’s death. Besides him, Col. Ralph Overland, and Command Sergeant Major Bradley Knapp of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment were relieved from their positions. Efflandt had already been removed from his command last summer, but hadn’t left the post and had instead been assigned other duties.
MG Jeffrey Broadwater, 1st Cavalry Division’s commanding general, and Command Sergeant Major Thomas C. Kenny, the 1st’s command sergeant major, have been suspended.
The names of the battalion level and below commanders and leaders who received administrative action were not released as per Army policy of not identifying leaders at the battalion level and below.
Specialist Guillén’s family was expected to address the situation at Fort Hood, later on, Tuesday.