Texas leaders and organizations reacted after the Army fired or suspended 14 officers and enlisted soldiers at the Fort Hood base following a report of at least 25 Fort Hood soldiers who died from suicide, homicide or accidents, including the bludgeoning death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen.
The Army also ordered policy changes to address chronic failures of leadership that contributed to a widespread pattern of violence, including murder, sexual assault and harassment.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy fired three top commanders and suspended two others pending a further investigation. He also ordered a separate probe into staffing and procedures at the base’s Criminal Investigation Command unit, which is responsible for investigating crimes on Fort Hood.
The reactions follow:
Sen. Ted Cruz released the following written response:
“I’m deeply troubled by the findings published today about the command climate at Ft. Hood and the issues surrounding the atrocious killing of Spc. Vanessa Guillen. The Army owed this investigation to her family and all those who mourn her death, and I’m encouraged that the Army is prepared to implement meaningful change at Ft. Hood and across the entire service. The problem of sexual assault and harassment in our military is far too often pervasive in our armed forces, which is why I’ve long supported the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act. I’ll continue working with my colleagues to ensure we uphold our solemn obligation to protect the young women and men of our armed forces from sexual violence.”
Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia released the following written statement:
“Today, the Army released a report detailing the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee’s findings as they pertain to Fort Hood’s toxic culture and command structure. This report is just a first step in making sure that what happened to Vanessa Guillen never happens again to another soldier. It confirms what the family, many current and former servicemembers, and my colleagues and I in Congress have been saying throughout this process.
“There is a widespread culture at Fort Hood, and the Army, that has enabled sexual harassment and assault on base. The SHARP program is incredibly flawed and fails to keep servicemembers safe. It does not give them a truly confidential way to report sexual violence. The Army’s missing soldier system is broken, failing families who just want transparency when a family member goes missing.
“In light of these findings, I still have many concerns. This independent panel did not determine who in the command structure was criminally negligent in Vanessa Guillen’s case, but I hope all who are responsible will be held accountable. They must be held accountable! There are still unanswered questions about what the Army and the military as a whole will do to have culturally competent and linguistically inclusive best-practices when engaging families in missing soldier cases. The review concluded that CID at Fort Hood is not prepared to handle cases in general. Additionally, the panel is calling for strengthening the SHARP program; however, it does little to address the need for an independent and confidential way to report sexual violence as proposed in the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act. And lastly, while the panel received tens of thousands of responses about the culture and command structure at Fort Hood, it is unclear how many former and current soldiers who reported their experiences with sexual violence in the military on social media or other channels were contacted as part of this review.
“At tomorrow’s House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel hearing, I plan to ask the Army on how they will get this done for our troops. I am hopeful that the military as a whole will seriously consider the panel’s recommendations. The reality is this problem is bigger than Fort Hood, and the Army. For too long, men and women in the military have warned us about the toxic culture that enables sexual violence in the U.S. Armed Forces. When we examine our conscience, we must act. This boils down to trust. The Army and the U.S. military have a lot of work to do to regain the trust of our servicemembers, their families, and the American public. They cannot afford to wait another decade before anything changes. Vanessa Guillen and every person in the U.S. military deserve better.”
Domingo Garcia, LULAC national president, released the following written statement:
“Today’s announcement by the Secretary of the Army and the independent panel that was reviewing the Vanessa Guillen case and abuses and criminal activity at Fort Hood is a major step in the right direction. LULAC has been fighting for the men and women in uniform such as Vanessa Guillen to make sure that when they serve, they are protected, mentored and motivated to serve their country.”
Sindy Benavides, LULAC national chief executive officer, released the following written statement:
“LULAC pledges to the families of communities of color and all communities who entrust their loved ones to the Army and our military, that never again will their sons and daughters have to suffer, alone and in silence, the mistreatment and danger from within their own ranks. We stand united with them and their families to ensure their voices are heard at the highest level and their concerns are addressed.
“For months, we have worked with the Army leadership to create an independent process to investigate matters such as those which led up to the death of Vanessa Guillen and other soldiers at Ft. Hood. LULAC has fought during the past 91-years for the civil rights and dignity of every individual who lives in our country and these rights are not forfeited when he or she puts on a military uniform to defend this nation.”