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Fourteen are fired or suspended following a Fort Hood investigation into Vanessa Guillén's death. Photo: LM Otero/AP
Fourteen are fired or suspended following a Fort Hood investigation into Vanessa Guillén's death. Photo: LM Otero/AP

Vanessa Guillén revelations result in 14 fired or suspended at Fort Hood

The latest purge is an effort to fix a yearslong culture of sexual assault and violence at the U.S. Army base.

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An investigation sparked by the killing of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén has resulted in 14 firings and suspensions among Army commanders and lower-level officers at Fort Hood. It looked into a pattern of sexual assault, harassment, suicides and murder at the U.S. Army base in Texas.

"In total, 14 leaders have been relieved or suspended from their positions," Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said at a press briefing on Dec. 8. 

Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt, the commander of Fort Hood at the time of Guillén's death, was relieved of command, the Army said. He has previously been demoted by the Army in September. 

The Army also relieved the leadership of Guillén’s unit, Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny, have been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into the 1st Cavalry Division, regarding the climate of its command and  its “Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program,” reported the Texas Tribune.

The mounting reports regarding sexual assault, killings, and disappearances at Fort Hood, including higher levels of crime than at any other Army base, are “directly related to leadership failures,” McCarthy said at the press briefing. 

Guillén disappeared from the base on April 22 at the age of 20. Her body was found on the outskirts of Killeen, TX on June 30. The main suspect in her death, Specialist Aaron Robinson, killed himself on July 1 as police were attempting to take him into custody.

Her death was one of at least 25 connected to Fort Hood in 2020 alone.

The announcement of 14 firings and suspensions comes ahead of the Army's planned release of a long-awaited full report, said to be roughly 140 pages long, outlining the extensive issues of what has gone wrong at the base, and in the Army as a whole.  

Guillén's family — since her disappearance and ultimate recovery of her body — has claimed that the 20-year-old soldier was sexually harassed at Fort Hood and that she was too afraid to report because of fear of retaliation.

The Fort Hood Independent Review Committee discussed the report’s findings and recommendations ahead of its release. Panel members appointed by McCarthy in July and led by Chris Swecker, also include Jonathan Harmon, Carrie Ricci, Quetta Rodriguez and Jack White. 

“This whole committee was precipitated by the unfortunate event of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén,” said White, who said the investigation found multiple instances in delays that contributed to the, “long, drawn-out process” that was the investigation into her disappearance. 

At the outset, White explained that it was important to hear from the family, and the details of its experience with Army command. 

Guillén’s family, for months, has been vocal about the barriers they fought in order to scratch the surface of truth regarding Vanessa’s death, protesting against the lack of transparency, accountability, and action. 

In addition to gaining access to Fort Hood’s records, the panel conducted visits to the sprawling base to meet with officers and enlisted personnel.

White added that evidence of sexual assault pertaining to Guillén’s case was subject to a seperate Army investigation. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) “did not find any evidence that Spc. Robinson assaulted Guillén, and I’ll leave it at that,” he continued, adding that this finding is in regards to Robinson alone.

White also emphasized the committee’s findings are not to suggest that sexual assault isn’t happening or that the investigation has concluded. 

Committee member Rodriguez gave a brief preview of what will be revealed in the report. 

Out of over 500 women soldiers interviewed, 93 resulted in having credible accounts of sexual assault. Rodriguez added the report will also include findings pertaining to male soldiers, as well as sexual harassment independent of assault.

As result of the new report and mounting pressure, the Army has plans in place to overhaul its sexual harassment reporting program known as SHARP.

“We are not oblivious to the fact that this is one army,” White continued, saying Fort Hood is likely emblematic of similar situations at Army installations across the nation. 

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