Thursday, July 18, 2024

14 Fort Hood Leaders Suspended Due to Sexual Assault Environment

According to a Report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, there was a command climate at Fort Hood military base in Texas which created a “permissive environment for sexual harassment and sexual assault”, thus, 14 leaders at Fort Hood have been suspended or relieved from their positions. This report derives after the disappearance and killing of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen.

Amid the announcement, Mayra Guillen, Vanessa’s older sister, stated that her and her family were somewhat satisfied with the removal of various military officials from their duties, especially those who were supposed to provide the Guillen family with answers about the whereabouts of Vanessa. Lupe Guillen, Vanessa’s younger sister, stated, “Efflandt deserved it because he ignored us every single time that passed by, overland he was so disrespectful throughout this process. And I’m sorry to say this, which I am not the person to say this, but you deserve it.”

After Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance, Ryan McCarthy, Army Secretary, decided to appoint a panel of five civilian members in order to conduct an independent review looking into Fort Hood’s command climate and culture. Vanessa Guillen’s family stated that before her disappearance she had told them and colleagues at Fort Hood that she has been sexually harassed at the army base.

As part of the independent investigation, the five-member panel visited the Fort Hood base for 19 days for two months. They conducted 80 group interviews which included 1,800 soldiers as well as 647 individual interviews which out of 647, 503 were female soldiers. The panel found that the soldiers had a fear of retaliation, stigmatism, ostracism, and negatively affecting their careers if they came forward with their sexual harassment and/or sexual assault experiences.

One of the panel members, Carrie Ricci, former officer with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps and worked at Fort Hood for three years, stated “What many of them needed was to be believed, and that’s what we did. We listened to them. If any of them see this, I want them to know we believe you”.

The Independent review committee stated that they made a huge effort to interview women in every unit especially the unit where Guillen was part of. In that unit they found that there a shocking number of sexual assault and harassment allegations that were never reported.

After the results of the report came to light, Natalie Khawam, attorney for the Guillen family, stated that they will continue to push for Congress to pass legislation in Vanessa’s name seeking to improve the Department of Defense’s response to sexual assault and sexual harassment offenses. She also stated, “We cannot afford to lose another Vanessa, and the only way to fix that is through legislation”.