Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced that 14 senior officers at Fort Hood, Texas, will be punished after an investigation revealed shocking lapses in command that led to “ineffective implementation” of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program “that resulted in a pervasive lack of confidence, fear of retaliation, and significant underreporting of cases, particularly within the enlisted ranks,” according to a report compiled by The Fort Hood Independent Review Committee.
The report was initiated after several soldiers died while on base with one female, Spc. Vanessa Guillen, found murdered. Guillen’s body was discovered off base, but it was determined her murder took place in the armory where she worked. She was bludgeoned to death by Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who killed himself after being confronted by police.
The murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen “shocked our conscious and brought attention to deeper problems,” McCarthy said on Tuesday.
“The initial investigation into Vanessa’s death, coupled with high numbers of crimes and deaths at Fort Hood, has revealed a series of missteps and multiple failures in our system and within our leadership,” he added.
To put it mildly, Fort Hood is a mess. Sexual harassment and assault were rampant and sometimes unreported — probably because the women figured nothing would be done about it anyway. The report suggests that “top generals and senior enlisted personnel are not paying enough attention to the welfare of the troops, outlining specific concerns about how searches for soldiers who have gone missing as well as sexual assault and sexual harassment cases have been handled.”
“During the review period, no Commanding General or subordinate echelon commander chose to intervene proactively and mitigate known risks of high crime, sexual assault and sexual harassment. The result was a pervasive lack of confidence in the SHARP Program and an unacceptable lack of knowledge of core SHARP components regarding reporting and certain victim services,” it says.
“Soldiers assaulting and harassing other Soldiers is contrary to Army values and requires a dramatic change in culture,” Chris Swecker, the committee chair, said. “The committee determined that, during the time period covered by our review, there was a permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment at Fort Hood. We have recommended changes to the staffing, structure and implementation of the SHARP program at Fort Hood, and possibly beyond, to address deeply dysfunctional norms and regain Soldiers’ trust.”
The 14 senior commanders were either relieved of duty or suspended. More charges may be forthcoming as the Army is continuing its own investigation. It’s one of the largest disciplinary actions in the history of the service.
The committee’s report outlines nine findings and 70 recommendations “relating to areas including SHARP; Fort Hood Criminal Investigation Command (CID); missing Soldier protocols; and the installation’s crime prevention and public relations efforts,” according to a press release issued Tuesday.
There are nearly 37,000 service members living and working at Fort Hood. The “permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment” has been known about for years in the Army, according to some women who had complaints going all the way back to 2006.
The report was probably no surprise to the Pentagon and the Army high command, which makes it even more maddening. Allowing their soldiers to live and work in such an environment is inexcusable and reflects very badly on our nation’s military.