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14 Fort Hood soldiers, leaders relieved or suspended due to major flaws on base

Independent Review Committee releases report on Fort Hood
Army expected to discipline several officers amid reports of toxic culture at Fort Hood
Posted at 11:14 AM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 18:23:57-05

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and other officials at the Pentagon released the findings of an independent review of leadership on Fort Hood today.

McCarthy said Tuesday that he was suspending or relieving 14 leaders and soldiers at Fort Hood after an internal investigation revealed "major flaws" in leadership at the base.

The following leaders are relieved: Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt, who was left in charge of the base earlier this year when Guillen was killed, Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander and command sergeant major.

The secretary also directed the suspension of Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny, 1st Cavalry Division commanding general and command sergeant major, pending the outcome of a new Army Regulation (AR) 15-6 investigation of 1st Cavalry Division’s command climate and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program.

The base commander, Army Lt. Gen. Pat White, will not face any administrative action. He was deployed to Iraq as the commander there for much of the year, McCarthy said.

"As a matter of policy and to protect individual privacy, the Army will not release the names of the battalion level and below commanders and leaders who received administrative action," the Army said in a press release.

The initial investigation has revealed a series of missteps and failures within leadership, McCarthy said.

Members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee include Chris Swecker, Jonathan Harmon, Carrie Ricci, Queta Rodriguez and Jack White.

Over the course of the review, they surveyed hundreds of soldiers and met with local leaders and law enforcement.

In its report, the FHIRC found a deficient climate at Fort Hood, including ineffective implementation of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program that resulted in a pervasive lack of confidence, fear of retaliation, and significant underreporting of cases, particularly within the enlisted ranks.

Fort Hood leadership knew or should have known of the high risk of harm to female Soldiers, according to the report.

McCarthy blamed leadership for allowing a culture that invited sexual assault against female soldiers to fester, saying the culture was "the direct result of leadership failures."

There was a fear of retaliation among female soldiers, according to the committee.

503 of 647 soldiers interviewed were women. There were 93 credible accounts of sexual assault, with only 59 reported. There were 217 unreported accounts of sexual harassment discovered.

The committee recommended improvements for overall SHARP program structure, Army missing solder protocols, Army wide command climate issues, ect.

The committee noted that command at Fort Hood was ineffective at implementing the SHARP program. Soldier accountability was not strictly enforced. The committee found serious crime problems on base have gone unaddressed. Serious crime problems require proactive responses to mitigate.

"This report will cause the Army to change our culture forever," McCarthy said.

The People First Task Force will analyze the findings and recommendations in the FHIRC report, develop a plan of action to address issues identified by the committee, and reevaluate current policy and programs.

McCarthy said the Army would institute policy changes that he hopes to be in place by March 2021.

McCarthy also announced a new missing soldier protocols. The new Army policy will change how commanders deal with missing soldiers, requiring them to list service members as absent-unknown for up to 48 hours and to do everything they can to locate the service members to determine if their absence is voluntary or not before declaring anyone AWOL, or absent without leave.

The directive includes additional guidance for commanders and law enforcement on steps to classify Soldiers as deserters.

The Army is also opening a separate AR 15-6 investigation into the resourcing, policies and procedures of the 6th Military Police Group (Criminal Investigation Command). Woven into the report are recommendations for squad leaders.

The FHIRC found that Fort Hood’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID) detachment was under-experienced and over-assigned, factors which adversely impacted investigations of sex crimes and Soldier deaths.

Officials said they spoke to the Guillen family and would fix the issues that led to Vanessa's death, and hold leadership accountable.

Natalie Khawam, the lawyer for the Guillen family, released the following quote:

We support the Army’s decision to take swift action in investigating what happened to Vanessa Guillen including terminating and suspending several people in leadership this morning who failed to protect our soldiers. This action is a step in the right direction and highlights the fact that Gen McConville is taking accountability, overhauling Fort Hood, and implementing new policies and procedures so what happened to Vanessa Guillen never happens again.

The independent review, which was directed by Secretary McCarthy, arose from the questions and concerns voiced by family members, Congress, and various Hispanic advocacy groups during the investigation into the disappearance and murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillén.

The committee visited Fort Hood from Aug. 30 to Sept. 15. The full review can be found here.

Jack White said he spoke to the Guillen family and he believes the family is pleased with the fact that progress is being made.

Guillen, 20, was bludgeoned to death at Fort Hood by Spc. Aaron Robinson, who shot himself in the head on July 1 as police were trying to take him into custody. The soldier was missing for months before her remains were found.

In a recent video message on Twitter, McCarthy said he had reviewed the findings of the independent commission he sent to assess the command climate at Fort Hood. He added, “Leaders, regardless of rank, are accountable for what happens in their units and must have the courage to speak up and intervene when they recognize actions that bring harm to our soldiers and to the integrity of our institution.”

Guillen was murdered on base on April 22, 2020, and her death has led to several reforms and reviews at Fort Hood.

Her case wasn't the only sign of trouble at Fort Hood. Between January and late October, the Intercept reports that there were 28 deaths on the base, including five homicides and eight suicides.

Fort Hood recently announced the construction of a memorial gate in honor of Guillen.

A separate investigation into Fort Hood's leadership and the handling of claims that Guillen was sexually harassed, which is being lead by Gen. Murray, is still ongoing and is set to be released at a later date.