An independent panel’s investigation into the ongoing issues at Fort Hood has resulted in firings and suspensions after leaders allowed a “permissive environment,” particularly surrounding sexual assault and harassment.
The Hill reports that Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt, the commander of Fort Hood at the time of soldier Vanessa Guillén’s death, was previously dropped down to deputy. He has now been completely relieved of his command.
Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment were also relieved of their command, while Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny, the 1st Cavalry Division, are suspended, pending the outcome of an additional investigation.
The names of those on battalion level who were disciplined will not be released, due to policy and “to protect individual privacy.”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Spc. Guillén, 20, was last seen alive on April 22 at around 1 p.m. at the Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. Guillén left behind her car keys, barracks room key, identification card, and wallet in an armory room, where she worked.
Soldier Aaron Robinson is accused of killing Guillén and disposing of her body near the Leon River, around 30 miles from Fort Hood. Robinson’s girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, is accused of helping him chop Guillen’s body parts up and hide them in three shallow graves.
Robinson later took his own life while authorities attempted to apprehend him earlier this year. Aguilar was arrested on federal charges of tampering with evidence. She remains behind bars without bail.
The independent review panel discovered that the Army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Program (SHARP) didn’t fulfill its orders to reduce sexual assault and harassment at the base, NBC News reports.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced that leadership failures led directly to the ongoing issues at Fort Hood.
“I have determined the issues at Fort Hood are directly related to leadership failures,” McCarthy told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
“I am … disappointed that leaders failed to effectively create a climate that treated all soldiers with dignity and respect and have failed to reinforce every ones’ obligation to prevent and properly respond to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault.”
Further, the panel indicated that leaders didn’t show enough accountability for the numerous Fort Hood soldiers who disappeared. Several of these soldiers, such as Elder Fernandes and Gregory Morales, were later found deceased.
“The deficient climate also extended into the missing Soldier scenarios, where no one recognized the slippage in accountability procedures and unwillingness or lack of ability of non-commissioned officers (NCOs) to keep track of their subordinates,” the panel’s report read.
Guillén’s death was one part of the widespread violence uncovered at Fort Hood during the investigation. The Army opened up another, separate investigation into the 6th Military Police Group’s Criminal Investigation Command, which is responsible for handling serious criminal matters.
“Accountability and transparency are foundational as we move forward,” McCarthy added. “We have a great deal of work ahead of us. This is an initial step to addressing and facing these issues.”
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[Feature Photo: Vanessa Guillen/U.S. Army]