Fourteen U.S. Army leaders fired or suspended at Fort Hood” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Fourteen U.S. Army leaders, including commanders and other leaders at Fort Hood have been fired or suspended in an effort to correct a years-long culture of sexual assault and a pattern of violence at the base, Army officials said Tuesday.

Among those relieved was Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt, who was in charge of the base earlier this year when Spc. Vanessa Guillén went missing. Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp were also relieved.

Two other leaders, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny, have been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into command climate and sexual harassment and assault response.

The Army has also opened a separate investigation into resourcing, policies and procedures of the 6th Military Police Group, the division of the Criminal Investigation Command which conducts felony-level criminal investigations at Fort Hood.

The shake-ups come in response to an independent review of the base’s command climate and culture, which Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy launched in mid-July amid increasing pressure from Guillén’s family, Congress and advocacy groups.

McCarthy and other Army leaders announced Tuesday that as a result of the investigation, they have established a new policy on missing soldiers and launched a new group, the People First Task Force, which will be responsible for analyzing the problems discovered at Fort Hood and reevaluating Army policy.

Guillén disappeared in April and her body was found near the Leon River in July. The soldier suspected of killing Guillén, Spc. Aaron Robinson, killed himself as police tried to arrest him. Guillén was the victim of sexual harassment, her sister said, but she didn’t report the sexual harassment out of fear of retaliation.

Between 2014 and 2019, an average of 129 felonies were committed annually at Fort Hood, including murder, kidnapping and sexual assault. McCarthy acknowledged during a press briefing in August that the base had “the most cases for sexual assault and harassment and murders for our entire formation of the U.S. Army.”

Five civilians, forming the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, undertook a massive investigation into culture on the base, conducting more than 2,500 interviews at the base and convening community meetings. Out of that effort they have produced a report, including nine major findings and 70 recommendations, which is expected to be released Tuesday afternoon.

Army officials on Tuesday also announced a new policy on missing soldiers, including a new status — “absent-unknown” — with which missing soldiers will be tagged for the first 48 hours they are missing. Soldiers will no longer be considered AWOL — absent without leave — unless commanders determine the absence is voluntary. If they cannot show the absence is voluntary, commanders will classify the individual as “missing,” and dispatch a liaison officer to update the soldier’s family while military personnel try to locate the missing soldier.

The new policy is intended to ensure the military takes immediate action to find missing personnel.

Two congressional subcomittees are conducting a separate investigation into how Fort Hood’s leadership has responded to a series of deaths and instances of sexual harassment and abuse.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/12/08/fort-hood-vanessa-guillen-army-investigation/.

 

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

 

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