FORT HOOD, Texas – The U.S. Army fired and suspended 14 senior officials after getting results from an independent review launched in response to multiple soldier deaths on the post.
Specialist Vanessa Guillen and several other soldiers killed while serving on Fort Hood were the catalyst for changes to be made in the near future.
“This report, without a doubt, will cause the Army to change our culture,” said Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, at a press conference from the Pentagon.
The findings in the independent review into Fort Hood revealed issues on the post Army leaders say are directly related with leadership failures.
According to the panel’s report, the command failed to properly respond to allegations of sexual assault and harassment – leading to the firings and suspensions of 14 people, including two generals.
“What was made abundantly clear is we’ve got to fix our culture, particularly regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault,” said Lt. General Robert “Pat” White, Commanding General of the III Corps on Fort Hood.
In the 90-day-span to review the climate of Fort Hood, the panel conducted 647 independent interviews which included over 500 women and determined the command was ineffective in implementing the Army’s S.H.A.R.P. program. Which they say adversely impacted morale and soldiers willingness to report sexual assaults and harassment.
In fact, the panel found 93 credible accounts of sexual assault while only 59 were reported – and of the assaults reported, the process of investigating was drawn out – leaving many of the complaints unresolved for up to a year.
According to the report, many of the women on post feel that through this investigation, they are no longer being ignored.
“Someone was listening, and they felt that they were being heard. So it was important to me to say, ‘We heard you and we believe you,'” says Queta Rodriguez, one of the members of the review board.
The panel reported Fort Hood, compared to other installations across the country, was an outlier in A.W.O.L. soldiers, suicides, violent crimes and the highest positive drug test rate among Army posts – saying the problems they found were “cultural.”
But General Pat White is vowing to turn a new page on the post, unveiling Operation People First – sharing with every battalion team member just how crucial change is on Fort Hood.
“By next September, we will have turned over 60 percent of the formation here. So it’s going to be all new soldiers and leaders here. So we’re going to do this again until I’m assured we’re on a good path,” said White.