U.S. Fort Hood Army panel finds 'permissive' culture of sexual assaults

By Brad Brooks (Reuters) - An investigative panel looking into violent crimes and abuse at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas said on Tuesday it had found a command structure that was 'permissive' of sexual assaults. In light of the panel's finding, over a dozen commanders have been suspended or relieved and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said he expects to make widespread changes. The panel members said the culture at Fort Hood, the largest active duty armored post in the United States, must be changed from top to bottom.

Reuters December 09, 2020 02:11:14 IST
U.S. Fort Hood Army panel finds 'permissive' culture of sexual assaults

US Fort Hood Army panel finds permissive culture of sexual assaults

By Brad Brooks

(Reuters) - An investigative panel looking into violent crimes and abuse at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas said on Tuesday it had found a command structure that was "permissive" of sexual assaults.

In light of the panel's finding, over a dozen commanders have been suspended or relieved and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said he expects to make widespread changes.

The panel members said the culture at Fort Hood, the largest active duty armored post in the United States, must be changed from top to bottom.

The panel of five experts was created in July after a series of crimes and deaths, including the murder of Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old soldier at the base whose remains were found in June and whose death helped propel the #MeToo movement into the military.

In September, Fort Hood officials said there had been a record five homicides this year on the base.

"The murder of Specialist Vanessa Guillen shocked our conscience and brought attention to deeper problems," McCarthy said at a news conference announcing the panel's findings.

Guillen had disappeared from the base in April. Her family said she had complained to them about being sexually harassed before her disappearance, but Army officials say no sexual harassment reports were filed.

The Guillen family - along with several Latino advocacy groups - insisted on answers, and in response to their pushing, President Donald Trump in July announced the formation of the investigative panel.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command announced on July 1 that one military suspect in Guillen's case had taken his own life in Killeen, Texas, and a civilian suspect had been arrested.

The panel, which said it interviewed over 500 women at Fort Hood, found that only about half of the "credible accounts" of sexual assault and harassment that it heard about from those women were ever reported to commanders.

The reason was a lack of confidence among the women that any action would be taken, the panel said, adding that most were also fearful of retribution.

"The problems that we saw are cultural," said panel member Jack White, an army veteran and Virginia-based lawyer.

White said that front-line commanders had a lack of deep understanding of the rank and file at the base. A better knowledge would have made them more aware of the severity of the problems on the base and instilled more confidence among enlisted soldiers that their complaints might be taken seriously, he said.

Panel member Jonathan Harmon, a trial lawyer and army veteran, said that he heard repeatedly from platoon sergeants and squad leaders that they did not have time to get to know their soldiers. That meant they did not know of problems facing the soldiers, or even if any had gone missing.

"For those of us who had served in the military before, that was very, very shocking," he said.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas, Editing by Tom Brown and Rosalba O'Brien)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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