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Army leaders released the findings Tuesday of an independent investigation
into deaths of soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, announcing the firing or suspension of 14 senior officers on the base.
The investigation was sparked by the death of 20-year-old Specialist Vanessa Guillén
as well other soldiers on post. Guillén was discovered dead after telling family she'd been harassed by a superior. The other deaths were attributed to suicide, homicide and accidents.
During their fact-finding mission on the Killeen-area installation, members of an independent panel met with unit leaders, soldiers, members of the Guillén family, local officials, law enforcement and community groups.
Included in the investigation were interviews with 647 individual soldiers, 503 of whom were women. During the course of the probe, the interviews yielded 93 credible acts of sexual assault, only 59 of which had been previously reported.
Additionally, officials found 217 credible accounts of sexual harassment.
“At Fort Hood there was a clearly identified high risk of serious harm: sexual assault involving female soldiers in the enlisted ranks, which could have been addressed decisively and in proactive ways to mitigate the risk,” the report states.
“Unfortunately, a ‘business as usual’ approach was taken by Fort Hood leadership causing female soldiers, particularly in the combat brigades, to slip into survival mode, vulnerable and preyed upon, but fearful to report and be ostracized and re-victimized.”
The report cites data as far back as 2014, noting that the ratio of males to females in the combat units is approximately seven to one. What's more, “female enlisted soldiers make up the lion’s share of the victims, mostly at the hands of enlisted male soldier subjects."
In response to the findings, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy ordered policy changes to address leadership failures
at Fort Hood, which he said contributed to the violence experienced during 2020.
“Leaders, regardless of rank, are accountable for what happens in their units and must have the courage to speak up and intervene when they recognize actions that bring harm to our Soldiers and to the integrity of our institution,” McCarthy said in a release.
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