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US Army secretary to fire and suspend ‘significant number’ of officers and soldiers at Fort Hood military base

140-page report on base’s culture expected to be released on Tuesday

James Crump
Tuesday 08 December 2020 17:02 GMT
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Army secretary Ryan McCarthy speaks about Fort Hood

US Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy will fire or suspend a “significant number” of officers and soldiers at the Fort Hood military base, to address a pattern of sexual assault, harrassment and murder.

The announcement was made just hours before the release of the results of an investigation into the command culture at the base in Fort Hood, Texas, according to CBS News.

The investigation was ordered earlier this year, following the death of 20-year-old Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén. CBS reported that her death was one of 25 that have been connected to the base this year.

A report by the Army earlier this year said that Guillén was conducting her assigned duties at the military base, when a fellow soldier killed her in April. She was listed as missing for six weeks before her remains were eventually found on July 1 near the base.

Guillén’s family said that she told them that she was planning on filing a complaint of sexual harassment against the soldier at the time of her death, but US Army officials said that they had found no evidence that she had been harassed.

Mr McCarthy ordered the investigation into the culture in part because of Guillén’ murder, the secretary confirmed.

Sources familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press on Monday evening that Mr McCarthy will take disciplinary action against a “significant number” of soldiers and officers, after the 140-page report is released on Tuesday.

The report is expected to explain what is wrong with the US Army’s current culture, and will offer at least 70 recommendations on how to improve its trust with soldiers and staff.

Fort Hood’s base commander, lieutenant general Pat White, is not expected to face any disciplinary action, but major general Scott Efflandt, who was in charge of the base when Guillén was killed, is expected to be disciplined.

Earlier this year, Mr Efflandt’s plan to move to the base at Fort Bliss, Texas, was put on hold, as investigators looked into whether his leadership contributed to the deaths of multiple people, including Guillén, according to the AP.

In a recent conversation with CBS Evening News’ Norah O'Donnell, Mr McCarthy said that the Army had failed at keeping soldiers safe from assault and harassment.

However, he said he was still surprised by “the high numbers of individuals that were concerned about reporting because in fear of retaliation from someone in an echelon above them.”

Army leaders told the AP on Monday that they are concerned that the US has become too focused on preparing soldiers for conflict, that it has forgotten to look after their well-being.

Speaking in November, Mr McCarthy said that change was needed in the army, and promised to bring accountability to its actions.

He told reporters last month: “Leaders, regardless of rank, are accountable for what happens in their units and must have the courage to speak up and intervene.”

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