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Investigators point to leadership and investigative failures at Fort Hood in wake of service member deaths

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“No, it’s not normal for a family to feel insecure at our military base,” Sylvia Garcia, Donna Donna’s general, told Rep. When questioned by the Texas Democratic Congresswoman and other members of the subcommittee. of military services of the Chamber of Military Personnel.

“We worked very hard to make sure our families felt safe at the facility,” Martin later pledged.

The army commander appeared Tuesday in front of the group with other investigators who had conducted an independent climate and culture review at Fort Hood Army base in Texas. The investigation, driven by the murder of 20-year-old soldier Vanessa Guillen and the death of several other members of the service at the base last year, he found that Army investigators tasked with reviewing complex crimes in Fort Hood were very inexperienced, overwhelmed, and understaffed, leading to failures in protecting service members and their families.
He Army punished Fourteen senior officers at the base in December after publishing the findings of the investigation, with officers “relieved or suspended from their positions,” the army announced at the time. Fort Hood has a population of 60,000, including about 37,000 service members.

But punishing senior officials, despite being an important first step, will not solve the problems in Fort Hood, investigators suggested Tuesday.

Swecker told lawmakers that his review team commissioned 49 research projects with the West Point Military Academy to examine rates of different crimes in Fort Hood compared to other military bases. Fort Hood was an atypical value in all cases, he said.

“The comment they made to us was that they had never seen a situation where a base would have stood out as atypical value in terms of AWOL, in terms of defectors, in terms of drug use and drug arrests and testing. of positive drugs, serious crime cases. I mean, of the 49, he said, it was striking to see that a base was so atypical in terms of the 49 different areas we had seen, “Swecker said.

Swecker and two other members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee who testified at the hearing said Fort Hood’s problems do not all come from inexperienced researchers, but represent a top-down systemic leadership failure.

A mistake in informing service members how to get help if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted and using the SHARP program to do so, he said, along with inexperienced investigators working in complex cases, created a “perfect storm.” of problems at the base.

“Addressing complex cases was a problem, and without this deterrent, and without all that good intelligence being picked up and provided to the commanders to take mitigating action, then that kind of added to the mix, as described Andy, it’s a perfect storm. It all came together, “Swecker said.

Mary Counts, a former FBI special supervisory officer and consultant to the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, said SHARP representatives she interviewed at the base told her that three out of four soldiers between the ages of 18 and 23 they report that Fort Hood was sexually assaulted or harassed within three months of being at the base. Representatives, Counts said, had described the abuse as “almost an initiation.”

“That was amazing to me: one that this was happening, but two that this was known to the people on the show who were supposed to avoid this kind of behavior,” he said. “Again, it goes to leadership: if you know this is happening, you have a responsibility to stop it and we didn’t see it.”

Former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in December that Guillen’s assassination had “shocked our conscience and drawn attention to deeper issues.”

Guillen’s remains were found in a shallow grave in July after his disappearance in April last year. He was later determined to have been killed with a hammer in the armory where he worked, and his body had been moved by the killer, who committed suicide before he could be captured.

From his oath, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has repeatedly said that addressing the issue of assault and sexual harassment in the military is a top priority.

“The Department of Defense’s job is to keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies are in our own ranks,” Austin told his confirmation hearing.
Established a 90-day commission to seek solutions to sexual assault in the military on its first directive as Secretary of Defense in January, under the leadership of President Joe Biden. He has also ordered one urgent review which will be conducted to determine which U.S. military facilities and units are “high risk” for service members to be victims of sexual harassment and assault.

“President Biden has ordered a 90-day commission to seek solutions to sexual assault in the military. We will aggressively support this effort. But I do not want to wait 90 days to take action,” Austin wrote in a note in January. . “This is a matter of leadership. We will lead.”

This headline and story have been updated with additional details from Tuesday’s hearing.

CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.

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