Defense

Army moves to combat sexual crimes one year after death of Vanessa Guillen

People pay respects at a mural of Vanessa Guillen, a soldier based at Fort Hood, Texas
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The Army on Friday announced several new actions meant to combat sexual harassment and violence at Fort Hood, Texas, and across the service.

The move would implement some of the recommendations of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (FHIRC), which last year produced a damning report highlighting a climate of widespread sexual misconduct at the base following the April 2020 death of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen.

The recommendations to go into effect address concerns at Fort Hood, the base’s III Corps, Army Forces Command, as well as across the Army. They come nearly a year after Guillen was believed to have been bludgeoned to death by fellow Fort Hood soldier Spc. Aaron Robinson.

The body of Guillen — whose sister said she told her she was being sexually harassed but did not report it out of fear of retaliation — was discovered in late June, sparking a call to look into Fort Hood’s command climate and changes to how the Army addresses sexual crimes.   

Following the report’s release, 14 leaders at Fort Hood were relieved of duty or suspended from their positions.

In all, the Army has implemented five recommendations across the force, while Fort Hood, III Corps, and Army Forces Command have implemented an additional 16. The FHIRC report, released on Dec. 8, included 70 recommendations.

Among the biggest changes, the Army is restructuring the its Criminal Investigation Command, referred to as CID, and redesigning the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program “to address shortcomings identified in the FHIRC report,” according to a service statement.

In the committee report, the Fort Hood CID was found to have a workforce that “was unstable, under-experienced, over-assigned and underresourced leading to inefficiencies that had an adverse impact on investigations, especially complex cases involving sex crimes and Soldier deaths.”

And SHARP, which was established 15 years ago to eliminate sexual assaults and sexual harassment in the ranks, was found to have faltered as it was “structurally weak and under-resourced” and there was a “pervasive lack of confidence” in it. 

The Army now says the Fort Hood CID detachment “is fully manned with experienced agents and the office also has access to state-of-the-art software and digital-forensic-examination tools.”

And officials expect the redesigned SHARP program “will look out for the best interest of our Soldiers and civilians by focusing on prevention, survivor support and holding leaders at all echelons accountable,” according to the heads of the People First Task Force, the group formed to respond to the list of findings and recommendations within the FHIRC report.

In addition, the Army announced several new initiatives to “achieve transformational cultural change,” including the This is My Squad and the Command Assessment Program, meant to “ensure that only exemplary leaders are placed into critical positions of trust and responsibility,” according to the service statement.

The People First Task Force is also “developing multiple plans to address FHIRC recommendations for combating sexual harassment, sexual assault, violent crime, and other harmful behaviors that exist in our ranks across the Army.”

Tags Fort Hood Killing of Vanessa Guillén Sex crimes Sexual harassment Sexual misconduct
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