Report Finds 'Permissive Environment For Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment' At Fort Hood

Spurred by the brutal killing of Spc. Vanessa Guillén, a report from an independent review committee into the command culture and climate at Fort Hood found a permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment. According to the report, the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program was understaffed, chronically under-resourced, lacked funding, and lacked credentialed SHARP professionals among other issues. 

On Tuesday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy ordered the firing of three Fort Hood commanders and suspension of 11 others. Citing internal policy, the Army withheld the names of officers ranked at the battalion level of below. 

Missing for two months before she was found, Guillén was killed and dismembered by a fellow soldier according to federal and military investigators. As of September, 28 soldiers stationed at the base had died. The Texas Tributed reported that an average of 129 felonies, ranging from sexual assault to murder, were committed annually at Fort Hood between 2014 and 2019. 

The Associated Press reported  the Army ordered a second probe into the Criminal Investigation Command Unit on the base. Tasked with carrying out criminal investigations on the base, the Criminal Investigation Command Unit failed to identify and investigate serious crime issues on and off Fort Hood according to the report. 

McCarthy said the report will lead to a change in Army culture. “The challenges at Fort Hood forced us to take a critical look at our systems, our policies, and ourselves,” said McCarthy. “This is not just about metrics, but about possessing the ability to show compassion for our teammates and to look out for the best interest of our Soldiers.”

Chris Swecker, chair of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, said the committee suggested changes to staffing, structure, and SHARP program implementation at Fort Hood “to address deeply dysfunctional norms and regain soldiers’ trust.” 

Pam Campos-Palma credited Gloria Guillén, Vanessa’s mother, with demanding justice for her enlisted daughter resulting in this investigation. “She and the Guillén family inspired a nation-wide movement of public pressure and organizing,” said Campos-Palma in a statement. 

A senior strategist with the Working Families Party Campos-Palma leads the veterans organizing Project, Vets for the People. Campos-Palma says now is the time for elected officials to act on overdue accountability issues endemic in the Department of Defense. 

“[This summer] women veterans organized to boycott enlistment and demanded the shut down of the base,” reflected Campos-Palma. “Organizing and movement building by veterans and survivors on the outside is important if soldiers on the ground are to speak up about the reality of their conditions.” 

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