This week, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy announced sweeping changes at Fort Hood army base. The announcement comes months after an intense public outcry over the lack of leadership at Fort Hood, which has seen numerous homicides over the last few years, including 23-year-old Specialist Vanessa Guillén.
The Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (FHIRC), made up of McCarthy and five civilians, announced the findings in a 136-page report after a three-month examination of the Central Texas military base. Fourteen leaders from the Army at Ford Hood have also either been fired or suspended.
The Committee also announced the new People First Task Force, which will analyze the recommendations from the FHIRC and determine how they can be implemented. The report also outlined a new policy for missing soldiers from the U.S. Army.
Guillén disappeared from Fort Hood in April. According to her family, she told them she was being sexually harassed at the base. Her body was found in June. The soldier who murdered Spc. Guillén committed suicide after charges were filed against him in July.
In the wake of Guillén’s disappearance, demonstrations, rallies, and protests occurred around the country. Men and women who experienced sexual harassment in the military came forward and the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillén became a powerful cry to demand accountability from the U.S. military.
Guillén’s death also prompted a closer scrutiny of Fort Hood. This year, 28 soldiers have died on the military base. Five of those deaths were from homicide. Since 2016, more soldiers from Fort Hood have died from homicide than battle.
Yesterday, a subcommittee from the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing to review the FHIRC findings. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a member of the subcommittee, released a statement calling for the U.S. Army to implement the recommendations in the report swiftly.
“The Army must confront these deep and systemic issues swiftly and take decisive action to implement the systemic reforms called for in the report, including independent oversight of programs charged with responding and investigating cases of sexual harassment and assault and establishing meaningful and transparent protocols for responding and investigating instances of missing soldiers,” said Pressley in her statement.
Pressley was one of a number of Democratic lawmakers that visited Fort Hood in September. The seven members that traveled to the base reported troubling conditions.
After the U.S. Army’s announcement, the Guillén family applauded the changes to Fort Hood, but pleaded with Congress to pass further legislation to protect soldiers from harassment. The “I am Vanessa Guillén Act of 2020,” would create a confidential reporting system for sexual harassment in the military. It was introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, and Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a Republican from Oklahoma.
“Please, I ask the public that is watching this, I ask everyone who hears about Vanessa’s name or hears about sexual violence in the military or anywhere to endorse the act because this will keep my sister’s legacy alive,” said Lupe Guillén at a press conference earlier this week.
Members of the Guillén plan to travel to Washington next year to push members to schedule a full vote for the “I am Vanessa Guillén Act.”
Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images