The US Army fired or suspended 14 leaders at Fort Hood over a string of problems on base, including violent murder and sexual assault

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People pay respects at a mural of Vanessa Guillen, a soldier based at nearby Fort Hood on July 6, 2020 in Austin, Texas. Sergio Flores/Getty Images
  • The Army secretary announced Tuesday that 14 commanders and other leaders at Fort Hood in Texas are being relieved or fired.
  • The decision was triggered by the results of an independent review into the command climate and culture at the base started this past summer.
  • A total of 25 soldiers have died at Fort Hood over the past year. The most troubling death, the one that sparked the review, was that of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who was murdered and dismembered.
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Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced at the Pentagon Tuesday that more than a dozen Fort Hood commanders and other leaders have been relieved or suspended in response to a string of problems at the huge Texas base.

He said that an independent review initiated following the violent murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen identified “major flaws,” among which was a command climate on base that was “permissive” of sexual assault and other criminal activity.

Over the past year, 25 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood have died by suspected suicide, homicide, or in accidents, the Associated Press reported. McCarthy said in August that the violent crime rates at Fort Hood are among the highest in the Army.

Guillen, who disappeared in late April, was found in early July. Investigators said the 20-year-old soldier was beaten to death with a hammer and then dismembered before her body was dumped. The soldier suspected in her disappearance and murder killed himself when authorities attempt to apprehend him, but a civilian was arrested in connection to Guillen’s death.

The family alleged that Guillen was sexually harassed, but the Army says they have been unable to find evidence to support this claim. The allegation, however, led to the surfacing of a number of other allegations.

McCarthy said Tuesday that what happened to Guillen “shocked our conscience and brought attention to deeper problems.”

In July, facing pressure from Congress after Guillen’s death, McCarthy announced that he had ordered an “independent and comprehensive” review of the command climate and culture at Fort Hood. In September, another investigation was launched to look into the leadership at Fort Hood.

McCarthy said in November that “leaders, regardless of rank, are accountable for what happens in their units and must have the courage to speak up and intervene when they recognise actions that bring harm to our Soldiers and to the integrity of our institution.”

Speaking at the Pentagon Tuesday about the review, which identified a number of administrative failings in sexual assault and harassment prevention, criminal investigation, and incident management, among other things, McCarthy said that he has “determined the issues at Fort Hood are directly related to leadership failures.”

Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was the acting base commander at the time of Guillen’s death, Col. Ralph Overland, 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, the regiment’s command sergeant major, have been relieved.

And Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater, the 1st Cavalry Division commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Kenny, the regiment’s command sergeant major, have been suspended pending the outcome of further investigations.

Other lower-level leaders down to the squad level have also been relieved or suspended from their posts, but the Army is declining to release their names.

McCarthy said in a written statement Tuesday that “Army leaders command and serve in critical positions because senior leaders and Soldiers have trust and confidence in their abilities and character.”

“When a senior leader loses trust and confidence in a subordinate commander or leader, it is appropriate and necessary to relieve that person,” he added.

The Army has accepted all findings of the independent Fort Hood review, which McCarthy said is expected to have a lasting impact on the culture of the service branch.

The Army secretary said he is launching a “People First Task Force” that will be responsible for implementing the 70 recommendations included in the review, and he has already signed a policy that changes the procedures for when a soldier goes missing.