FORT HOOD, TX — Congressman Roger Williams, held a press conference after a community round table unpacking the challenges at Ft. Hood. Local elected officials, military veterans, and law enforcement officers were all invited to be part of the discussion.
The group tackled everything from sexual assault and the #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN legislation, to housing on post, and issues facing hundreds of veterans every day.
Ft. Hood and the City of Killeen were catapulted into the spotlight after the murder of Vanessa Guillen. Leaders at the round table said there has been input and support for changes at Fort Hood coming from all across the country.
However, Congressman Williams and local leaders say there has not been enough input from the people who actually live in the city of Killeen and understand how the military works.
Two of the main takeaways from the round table is the discussion surrounding renaming Fort Hood and Congressman William's opposition to the #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN bill as it stands now.
For some of those leaders, this round table discussion was a bit personal. Not many people know what it's like to walk around in Vanessa Guillen's shoes, but Lynda Nash does.
“I’m a 20-year retiree. During my time of me being in the military, I was sexually harassed as well as being sexually assaulted. So, I definitely have mixed feelings on it,” said Lynda Nash, a Harker Heights Councilwoman. “With the changes that will be made I believe that Fort Hood and the military should be able to police his self,” she said.
In previous rallies in support of the #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN bill, the Guillen family’s attorney Natalie Khawam said bringing in an outside investigative body is vital to ensure there isn't any conflict of interest with the military investigating its self.
Nash believes the proposed legislation outlined in the #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN bill, which would bring outside entities to investigate claims of sexual assault within the military, would disrupt the military chain of command.
Nash said, “The military is different it's not like civilian anything, that’s why we are the military, why we have that title. Out of everything, our chain of command is vital. That has to be in place and to have someone come in it breaks, that it breaks that continuity, it breaks that chain and I don’t think that would be a positive outcome. It’s not saying that ‘I police my friend’ when you say that it gives a negative connotation as though whoever is going to be doing the investigation their integrity is in question.”
It’s an opinion shared by Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra. Segarra believes there could be a middle ground as far as bringing outside people in to assist in some way. Similar to occasions when mental health professionals come on post to help soldiers with PTSD. Either way, he feels the city should have a say, especially when it comes to renaming the Great Place.
“Somebody even brought up using a different unit not completely connected so those are options not just necessarily all of a sudden saying we need to bring in outside lawyers,” said Segarra. “If there’s going to be decisions that are going to affect Fort Hood and the community outside Fort Hood, then I think it’s important that we are a part of that decision.”
Mayor Segarra said he hopes to be a part of the process when it comes to selecting the name changed. Especially because there are so many entities and organizations that have the Ft. Hood name within the city of Killeen, which would cost the city money to make those adjustments.
Congressman Williams said there is a lot of things that will go into changing the Ft. Hood name. He said it would head to a commission in DC, followed by a 2 to 3-year study, before the name would even be revealed. However, he does believe Ft. Hood should still have some tie with the new name.
Congressman Williams said, “We want a connection to Fort Hood. So, down the road people can relate and understand why the base was named after this person or this thing.”
As far as the #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN bill, Williams aligns with Segarra and Nash, agreeing that sexual assault and harassment within the military is an issue, but does not support bringing in outside investigators either. He believes the current proposed legislation does not have enough bipartisan support.
“Fort Hood is better prepared to handle these issues. If there’s a bill and we end up sponsoring or supporting, it’s going to have to have some other components rather than just pulling everything out and assuming we can’t get it done. We can get it done, and we will get it done, and it’s already beginning to get better,” Congressman Williams said.