The US military’s toxic culture has been getting unprecedented public exposure in the past year. Many new recruits across the US military’s numerous branches are traumatized before they even reach the battlefield.
This has been an open secret for a long time, but since the death of 20-year-old soldier Vanessa Guillen, who also experienced sexual assault while in the military, the issue has been getting a bit more attention.
The military base where Vanessa Guillen was stationed, Fort Hood, in Kileen, Texas, is one of the most dangerous bases in the country.
In fact, 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. After the death of Vanessa Guillen, the dangerous and criminal activity taking place at Fort Hood began making headlines on a regular basis, as more mysterious deaths were reported.
Last week, Sgt. 1st Class Cory Wrieden, who is currently serving with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, began posting videos on TikTok about an attitude of brutality among the leadership at the base, which is likely contributing to the dangerous environment there.
In fact, Wrieden said that authority figures at the base told soldiers to kill themselves, in the midst of a suicide epidemic among soldiers and veterans. Some of the mysterious deaths that have taken place at the base were ruled as suicides.
Wrieden also says that leadership has retaliated against him for speaking out, and he now believes that his career is over. He tried for months to get one of his superiors to take him seriously, but then decided he had no choice but to go public when he was ignored.
Wrieden told Task & Purpose, “I’m not going to be quiet anymore… I tried it — I used the open door policies, I talked to first sergeants and commanders, I talked to the battalion sergeant major … Don’t tell me to trust the process when the process has failed me the whole time, and my soldiers the whole time.”
Wrieden said that one of the authority figures on base would “throw stuff when he got upset” and “degrade” soldiers.
In at least one case, Wrieden said that a warrant officer “told a soldier he should kill himself, right to his face.”
“The sad part about it is, I would talk to other people, other officers who are higher ranking than me, and NCOs, and they’d be like ‘Oh yeah, I’ve heard the same thing. But none of them would do anything about it. They would just let him do this. Like, if you know about it, why don’t you say something?” Wrieden said.
Wrieden also said that while he was working on COVID contact tracing for the Army, a sergeant told him to lie about soldiers that had tested positive.
“So you kept my soldier in a room all night with someone who tested positive for COVID, and you want me to keep it between us?” Wrieden said. “I replied back, ‘Sorry First Sgt. but that’s not staying between us. I get it, the death rate of COVID is low, but you knowingly put my soldier in danger.’”
Wrieden also says that soldiers are often ridiculed or punished for seeking out resources for their mental health, which discourages them from doing so.