On Tuesday, the US Army announced that it had either fired or suspended 14 officers and enlisted soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, for acts of violence or harassment carried out on base.
Fort Hood is the notorious military base where dozens of soldiers have died from unnatural causes in the past year, including 20-year-old Vanessa Guillen, who was murdered at the base by a fellow soldier and had allegedly reported sexual harassment in her unit prior to her disappearance.
Along with the suspensions and firings, the Army has also ordered policy changes to address failures of leadership that contributed to a widespread pattern of violence, including murder, sexual assault, and harassment at the base.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy fired three top commanders and suspended two others pending a further investigation.
He also ordered a separate investigation into staffing and procedures at the base’s Criminal Investigation Command unit, which is responsible for investigating crimes on Fort Hood, according to the Associated Press.
In the past year, at least 25 soldiers stationed at Fort Hood have died from suicide, homicide, or some type of tragic accident.
McCarthy said that an independent panel found that leadership at the base has overlooked and disregarded credible threats of various types of abuse that took place at the base.
BREAKING: Army leaders are firing or suspending 14 officers and enlisted soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, and ordering policy changes to address chronic leadership failures that fostered a pattern of violence including murder, sexual assaults and harassment. https://t.co/ywdgEpITgC
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 8, 2020
McCarthy also ordered the Army to change its policy in regards to the protocol for dealing with missing soldiers. Currently, there is no standard procedure for making sure that missing soldiers are safe and accounted for, which is something the Army is promising to change.
The new policy will require people in leadership positions to list soldiers as absent-unknown for up to 48 hours, and then do everything they can to track down the soldier if they are still missing after that time period.
Among the high ranking figures fired is Army Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was left in charge of the base earlier this year when Guillen was killed, Col. Ralph Overland, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander, and his Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp.
— John-Carlos Estrada (@Mr_JCE) December 8, 2020
According to a 2018 RAND study, Fort Hood had the highest number of reported sexual assaults and rapes of any US military facility worldwide, based on data from 2014.
Numerous murders have been reported at the base for many years, and some soldiers are accused of being a part of a child trafficking ring that was busted earlier this week.
Investigators have not yet released many specifics about the case, but 9 men were arrested during a recent sting operation near the base. At least two of those men were identified as working at the military base.
This isn’t the first time that something like this has happened either, last month, 6 Fort Hood soldiers were caught up in a human trafficking sting, although it is not clear if children were a part of that case.
Fourteen people were arrested after a two-day sex trafficking, pimp and prostitution sting that was conducted by the Temple Police Department and Bell County Sheriff's Department on March 13 and 14. https://t.co/jSGjBpt5Pg
— Auntie Mame (@nitagale) June 30, 2020
The main area of Fort Hood had a total population of 53,416 as of the 2010 U.S. Census.
Fort Hood is the most populous U.S. military installation in the world. Named after Confederate General John Bell Hood, it is located halfway between Austin and Waco, about 60 miles (or 97 km) from each city.
The post is the headquarters of III Corps and First Army Division West and is home to the 1st Cavalry Division and 3rd Cavalry Regiment, among others.
Fort Hood is one of ten Army bases in the United States that are named after former Confederate generals.
BREAKING: Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy will fire or suspend 14 Fort Hood commanders and other leaders based on the findings of an independent review, @NorahODonnell reports.
"This report, without a doubt, will cause the Army to change our culture," Sec. McCarthy says. pic.twitter.com/XsRRDjNWX2
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) December 8, 2020