They say that some people, as they climb their way up the ladder of success, get drunk with power. Such has been the case with the U.S. Army. To date, they fired or suspended a total of 14 leaders at the Fort Hood military base in Texas. Many were left shocked with the news of widespread patterns of violence including rape, sexual assault, harassment, and even murder.
Investigators look into an independent review of the climate command found at the base. Upon further exploration, they discovered what they call a “permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment.” They immediately filed a report on Tuesday.
The deeper scrutiny was launched after the disappearance and murder of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén earlier this year by Spc. Aaron Robinson. According to reports, she was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in an armory room last April. After which, Robinson took his own life on July 1 when police tried to take him into custody.
Just before her murder, Guillén had actually confessed to her relatives and colleagues at the base that she was being sexually harassed. At this point, further proof needs to be collected and the case is still being investigated.
“The murder of Guillen shocked our conscience and brought attention to deeper problems,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said as he spoke at a news conference in Pentagon last Tuesday. He said that this latest development, “forced us to take a critical look at our systems, our policies, and ourselves.” He further explained that the, “issues at Fort Hood are directly related to leadership failures.” In reality, Fort Hood ranks among the highest in the Army in terms of its rates of murder, sexual assault, and harassment.
When all of these had been happening, officials admitted that there were no credible reports or information at that point in time. Hence, no action had been made. However, the allegations that surrounded the circumstances of her eventual death prompted a mass outcry. Many service members stepped into the light and shared their own ordeals. Their stories were said under the hashtag, #IAmVanessaGuillen.
With the outpouring of related stories, leaders were immediately fired or suspended. Among those on the list were Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt. He had beenthe acting commander at the base when Guillén’s death happened. Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander and command sergeant major, were all relieved from their posts as well.
“One of the things that the soldiers at Fort Hood, what many of them needed was to be believed, and that’s what we did. We listened to them,” committee member Carrie Ricci said. She was a former Judge Advocate General’s Corps officer that worked at the same fort for three years. “If any of them see this, I want them to know we believe you.”
The Army also finally released a statement saying, “when a senior leader loses trust and confidence in a subordinate commander or leader, it is appropriate and necessary to relieve that person.”
With the reports and complaints now piling up, McCarthy said that the Army would adopt a new policy. This would help maximize the efforts in finding soldiers who have disappeared. In fact, commanders will now be required to classify these missing soldiers under “absent-unknown” for up to 48 hours. In that time, the investigators will do all that they can to find the soldier. They will then see and determine whether or not their absence had been voluntary before they are declared AWOL.
According to The Associated Press, the Tuesday’s report release comes after a tumultuous year that witnessed as many as 25 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood die from a variety of grounds such as suicide, homicide, or accident.
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