The disappearance and murder of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén, 20, shone a light on army post Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas and now 14 senior officers have been suspended or fired after an investigation. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced the results of the investigation that looked at the repeated cases of sexual assault/harassment, suicides, and murders at the post. The issues at Fort Hood are “directly related to leadership failures,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said. “I directed the relief and or suspension of commanders and other leaders from the corps to the squad level,” he said, saying 14 senior officers “have been relieved of suspended from their positions,” he said, CNN reports.
The independent review was ordered after the death of Guillen, whose remains were discovered near the post in late June after her disappearance in April. “The initial investigation into Vanessa’s death, coupled with high numbers of crimes and deaths at Fort Hood, has revealed a series of missteps and multiple failures in our system and within our leadership,” McCarthy added, CNN reports.
McCarthy directed the establishment of an Independent Review Committee to investigate Fort Hood on July 30, CBS reports. The committee surveyed 31,612 soldiers, interviewing 647, and met with civic and elected leaders, local law enforcement leaders, and the local district attorneys, according to McCarthy. The conclusion of the investigation resulted in nine findings and 70 recommendations, subsequently presented to Army leadership on November 9.
Among the findings were 83 credible accounts of sexual assault, of which only 59 were reported, panel member Queta Rodriguez, the regional director of a nonprofit organization for veterans, told CBS. She added that these unreported accounts show a “lack of confidence in the system affects reporting” of assaults. “What many of the soldiers needed was to be believed, and I just want to say to them, ‘We believed you,'” Carrie Ricci, an associate general counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture who also served on the panel, told the outlet.
Guillén reportedly experienced sexual harassment before her murder and did not report it for fear of retaliation, her mom Gloria said during an episode dedicated to Vanessa of Red Table Talk: The Estefans. Following McCarthy’s announcement, her sisters Lupe and Mayra spoke out to commend the progress being made to right the wrongs that led to her murder. “If this is what she was meant to come to this world to, then we are going to advocate and keep pushing,” Mayra said, KHOU reports. Guillen’s family is calling on Congress to pass the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act which would create a more confidential way to report sexual harassment and would make it a punishable crime within the military.
“Texas LULAC is proud of the patriotism that Hispanics have historically displayed in service to our country and that nearly a quarter of the population stationed at Ft. Hood is Hispanic. This is why the harassment and tragic killing of Army Pvt. Vanessa Guillen was so painful. Our community has been waiting for months for the Army’s new independent panel to complete its work and today’s 143-page report contains 70 recommendations for change,” Rodolfo Rosales Jr., State Director of Texas LULAC (The League of United Latin American Citizens), said in a statement. adding. “Thanks to Vanessa Guillen having lived, our world is better.”