Army to release review of Fort Hood command climate and fire, suspend troops

Posted at 10:29 AM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 10:29:14-05

The Army is set to unveil the results of an independent review of the command climate and culture at Fort Hood on Tuesday, which was prompted by the disappearance and murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen.

Army leaders have hoped that the review could highlight the "root causes" at the base, which has experienced a high number of violent crimes and leads the Army in the number of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy launched the review in mid-July to address concerns raised by the Guillen family, members of Congress, and Hispanic advocacy groups.

+MORE: Tampa-based attorney push for "I am Vanessa Guillen Act' to lawmakers

Guillen's family has claimed that the 20-year-old soldier was sexually harassed at Fort Hood and that she was too afraid to step forward with her allegations because she feared retaliation.

A panel of five civilians undertook the review to determine whether the command culture and climate at the base contributed to the circumstances behind Guillen's case and other violent incidents at the base.

In addition to gaining access to the base's records, the panel conducted visits to the sprawling base to meet with officers and enlisted personnel.

A separate investigation of Fort Hood’s leaders and the handling of the Guillen sexual harassment claim headed by Gen. John Murray is still underway and will be released at a later date.

+MORE: Army announces leadership changes at Fort Hood

“I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m disappointed, we’re heartbroken,” McCarthy said candidly in August following a visit to Fort Hood where he promised changes at the base in the wake of Guillen's death.

“Vanessa was our teammate; we let her down, we let her family down, and it hurts,” said McCarthy.

“We’re going to do everything we can to prevent these types of things from happening again, to learn from this, and to move on,” said McCarthy. “We will do everything we can to protect her legacy by making enduring changes.”

+MORE:Family: Soldier believed dead was happy until recently

The Associated Press reported late Monday that the Army is prepared to "fire or suspend a significant number of officers and enlisted soldiers" at the base.

McCarthy will undertake administrative actions "that will remove soldiers from their jobs, and likely trigger investigations that could lead to a wide range of punishments," said the report. Army officials declined to comment on the Associated Press report.

McCarthy said in a video message to the Army in October that his preliminary review of the independent panel’s report had led him to a troubling conclusion that the Army's program to assist victims of sexual harassment had failed in its mandate to create "a climate that respects the dignity of every member of the Army family.”

"We must do better," said McCarthy. “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.”
"If we do not have the trust of America – nothing else matters," said McCarthy.