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14 Fort Hood leaders disciplined after Army investigation finds 'major flaws' in assault reporting

'Murder of Vanessa Guillen shocked our conscience'
Fort Hood
Posted at 9:01 AM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 16:28:39-05

Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy said Tuesday that he was suspending 14 leaders at Fort Hood after an internal investigation revealed "major flaws" in leadership at the Texas base.

On Tuesday, McCarthy blamed leadership for allowing a culture that invited sexual assault against female soldiers to fester, saying the culture was "the direct result of leadership failures."

McCarthy also said the Army would institute policy changes that he hopes to be in place by March 2021, adding that the internal investigation will "without a doubt will change the culture of the Army."

Investigations into the alleged toxic leadership culture at Fort Hood began earlier this year with the disappearance of then-Pfc. Vanessa Guillen. She was last seen on the base on April 22 and was not seen until her remains were found at a nearby river in July.

Hours after Guillen's remains were found, a suspect wanted in connection with her death died by suicide as police officers approached his car during a traffic stop. That soldier's estranged wife was later arrested in connection with Guillen's death.

Guillen's family has maintained that prior to her death, she had been sexually assaulted by another soldier at the base. They also claim that she had been afraid to report the assault to her superior officers for fear of retribution.

Weeks after her death, the Army said that while an investigation remained open, they had not found evidence that Guillen had been sexually assaulted.

McCarthy did not make any specific statements regarding Guillen's case and the current status into the investigation into the assault allegations. However, he did say that Guillen's murder "shocked our conscience."

Guillen's family held a press conference at the Fort on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

Speaking alongside Guillen's family, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said it is important for those aware of assaults to come forward.

"When a person is a victim, there no more powerful thing than love," Acevedo said. "I want to tell the community to come forward."

Guillen's case wasn't the only sign of trouble at Fort Hood. Between January and late October, the Intercept reports that there were 28 deaths on the base, including five homicides and eight suicides.

In October, The Intercept published a report that detailed fears of seven noncommissioned officers who said the culture at the base had grown so toxic that they feared for the safety of their soldiers.

The report detailed rampant misconduct, including drug use, sexual assault and warning signs of suicide that were ignored by commanding officers.

CNN reports that Fort Hood is home to 37,000 service members and has a total population of more than 60,000.