Army Secretary: ‘Gravely Disappointed’ in Fort Hood Leadership, Firing or Suspending 14 Officers and Enlisted Leaders
Fort Hood, TX – For months, violence, including sexual harassment and missing persons that turned out to be murders, plagued Fort Hood. Now, 14 officers and enlisted soldier leaders have been fired or suspended to address the issue, which is said to be “chronic leadership failures” on the base.
According to Army leaders, two of the officers being removed from their positions are generals- Major General Scott Efflandt and Major General Jeffrey Broadwater. Efflandt has been fired after being left in charge earlier this year when a female soldier was found dead. Broadwater has been suspended as the commander of the 1st Calvary Division, where several allegations of sexual assault have been made.
Other officers being fired are Colonel Ralph Overland and Command Sergeant Major Bradley Knapp. Command Sergeant Major Thomas C. Kenny has been placed on suspension pending results of the investigation.
The base commander, Lieutenant General Pat White, was deployed to Iraq much of the past year, and therefore does not face disciplinary action. Over the past year, 25 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood died due to suicide, homicide or accidents.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy will fire or suspend 14 Fort Hood commanders and other leaders based on the findings of an independent review:
"I am gravely disappointed that leaders failed to effectively create a climate that treated all soldiers with dignity and respect." pic.twitter.com/MvY8IzdmgS
— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 8, 2020
Additionally, the widely publicized fatal beating of 20-year-old Specialist Vanessa Guillen occurred when she went missing in April. Guillen had allegedly brought forth claims that Specialist Aaron Robinson was sexually harassing her, and her family said that the military told them no evidence of harassment was found against Robinson. Guillen’s remains were found just outside the base on June 30.
Police moved to arrest Robinson on July 1, but he died by suicide before being taken into custody.
The firings and suspensions, set in motion by Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, are said to be what will trigger a larger investigation into the mass violence on the base in the past year.
McCarthy also released results from an independent review he sought July 30 of this year via Fort Hood Independent Review Committee. On the review committee were a regional director of a veterans’ nonprofit and four lawyers with different backgrounds, to include investigations into law enforcement, the military, and the government.
TX: 14 Fort Hood soldiers fired, suspended over violence at base following independent review of the post’s command climate and culture.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy launched the review after pressure from family of Spc. Vanessa Guillén, Congress and advocacy groups. pic.twitter.com/bohYhSRhaG
— Morgan Chesky (@BreakingChesky) December 8, 2020
In addition to the enlisted personnel and officers, five civilians are also to be a part of the review of the “command climate and culture” both on Fort Hood and the community surrounding the actual base.
During his press release on the firings and suspension at the Pentagon, McCarthy said, “I have determined the issues at Fort Hood are directly related to leadership failures. I am gravely disappointed that leaders failed to effectively create a climate that treated all soldiers with dignity and respect, and that failed to reinforce everyone’s obligation to prevent and properly respond to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault.”
According to McCarthy, the review committee surveyed 31,612 soldiers. Of those, 647 were interviewed. The committee also met with elected leaders, local law enforcement, and the district attorneys. About 3/4 of those interviewed were women. Apparently, 18% of those women told of sexual assaults.
One committee member, Queta Rodriguez, said that they discovered 93 “credible” accounts of sexual harassment or assault during the interviews, of which 59 were reported. Reportedly, the committee found that there was a delayed process in taking action once allegations were presented, and there was a lack in assuredness of confidentiality among those reporting.
Another committee member, Carrie Ricci, said she saw a trend where soldiers (presumably female soldiers) were reluctant to report incidents because they feared they wouldn’t be believed. She said, “What many of the soldiers needed was to be believed, and I just want to say to them, ‘We believed you.'”
Of the independent review’s findings, McCarthy said, “The findings of the committee identified major flaws with the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention Program from implementation, reporting, and adjudication; fundamental issues with the Fort Hood Criminal Investigation Command field office activities that led to unaddressed problems on Fort Hood; and finally, a command climate at Fort Hood that was permissive of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault.”
McCarthy said he’s forming a “People First Task Force” to implement the 70 recommendations set forth by the review committee under their nine findings. These recommendations are expected to be put into place by March.
Additionally, there will be a change into how soldiers are categorized when they don’t report to duty. Previously, soldiers who did not report for duty were immediately placed on an AWOL list. Now, command will have the option to list the soldier as “absent-unknown” for 48 hours while they determine whether there may be foul play suspected in relation to the soldier’s disappearance.
To this, McCarthy said, “It clarifies expectations and responsibilities of unit commanders and Army law enforcement authorities, focusing on the first 48 hours a soldier is missing. It creates new processes for soldiers’ reporting for duty status and casualty status, for supporting missing soldiers’ families.”
McCarthy said that the committee’s report will “force the Army to change its culture.”