x
Breaking News
More () »

Dallas's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Dallas, Texas | WFAA.com

Army announces overhaul of how sexual harassment, assault and other crimes investigated nearly one year after death of Vanessa Guillen

The recommendations impact not just Fort Hood but also the U.S. Army as a whole.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The U.S. Army announced a series of actions Friday that would implement the recommendations of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (FHIRC).

The review, which was conducted in response to the death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, examined the command climate and culture on Fort Hood and the surrounding military community to determine whether they reflect the Army's commitment to safety, respect, inclusiveness, diversity and freedom from sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The news comes less than a week from the day Guillen was killed, allegedly by fellow soldier Spc. Aaron Robinson in an armory room on post.

RELATED: Vanessa Guillen killed with hammer and her body mutilated, affidavit says

Guillen reportedly told her family she was being sexually harassed but never reported it to her superiors for fear of retaliation.

In the months that followed her death, Guillen's family and supporters held protests outside Fort Hood demanding justice. It led to the creation of the #IAmVanessaGuillen movement and the I am Vanessa Guillen Act.

The proposed bill, sponsored by California Rep. Jackie Speier (D), would allow victims of sexual assault and harassment in the military to report the allegations to a third party outside their chain of command.

The bill was set to be introduced on the U.S. House floor April 22, exactly one year after Guillen's death.

The actions announced Friday would address not just the concerns on Fort Hood but across the Army as a whole, U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) and III Corps.

Among the changes are the re-structuring the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) and redesigning the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program to address shortcomings identified in the FHIRC report. 

"Fort Hood’s 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," a press release said.

The FHIRC report, released Dec. 8, included 70 recommendations to force change. In addition to those, the Army said its working to "achieve transformational cultural change by executing initiatives such as This is My Squad (TIMS), the Army’s first-ever noncommissioned officer strategy, and the Command Assessment Program, which will ensure that only exemplary leaders are placed into critical positions of trust and responsibility."

“The People First Task Force is driving transformational change for the Army’s approach on the prevention of harmful behaviors that undermine cohesion and trust, particularly sexual assault and sexual harassment,” said People First Task Force tri-chairs Lt. Gen. Gary M. Brito, the deputy chief of staff of G-1.

Army implementation actions

In all, the Army implemented five recommendations across the force, while Fort Hood, III Corps, and FORSCOM implemented an additional 16 recommendations. Responsive actions taken at Fort Hood and Army-wide include:

Army-wide

  • Updated CID policies to require full investigations of off-post Soldier drug overdoses, including determination of the source of the drugs and the extent and nature of the Soldier’s involvement with illegal drugs. The updated policy also requires a full investigation of all suspected Soldier suicides occurring on or off the installation.
  • In December 2020, the Army issued guidance regarding missing Soldiers to clarify expectations and responsibilities of unit commanders and Army law-enforcement authorities when accounting for Soldiers who are absent from their place of duty.

FORSCOM/III Corps/Fort Hood

  • The FORSCOM commanding general implemented a policy requiring commanders to select investigating officers from outside a subject’s brigade-sized element for formal sexual harassment complaints under Army Regulation 600-20, chapter 7.
  • The Department of Emergency Services now provides a brief at each III Corps and Fort Hood company commander and first sergeant course regarding the purpose of military protective orders and how they benefit Soldiers, commanders and units.
  • III Corps now disseminates a monthly “Teal Hash” message to the force that includes the results of court-martial convictions for sexual offenses.
  • III Corps commanders are required to update victims on Sexual Assault Review Board (SARB) results within 72-hours.
  • Fort Hood’s CID detachment has access to state-of-the-art software and digital-forensic-examination tools.
  • Fort Hood has reinvigorated its Good Order and Discipline Boards and updated its list of off-limits establishments to protect the safety and health of military personnel and their families.
  • In October, III Corps and Fort Hood initiated Operation People First, a year-long effort designed to create trustworthy and engaged leaders, and build cohesive teams; the initiative includes a leader certification program.
  • The Fort Hood installation commander now leads and directs the monthly SARB process.
  • The FORSCOM commanding general has authorized senior mission commanders to temporarily leverage crisis-response resources including public affairs, medical, legal, logistics and law-enforcement personnel as needed; Fort Hood has also expanded its outreach to key community groups.

People First Task Force

While the FHIRC report focused on the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, the findings impact the entire Army and more than 1.2 million Soldiers. The People First Task Force is 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.

  • People First Task Force-led efforts to redesign the SHARP program are underway and members expect to present their recommendations to Army leadership soon for review and implementation.
  • In March, the People First Solarium brought 100 junior enlisted and officers from across the total Army to the U.S. Military Academy to examine Army culture and the behaviors that negatively impact cohesion and trust.
  • The People First Task Force is conducting pilot programs to measure unit cohesion and trust, as well as the effectiveness of programs meant to counter harmful behaviors such as sexual harassment, at select installations. The assessments include: Soldier interviews and small unit visits; surveys measuring morale and trust in leadership; and analyses of formations’ operations with regard to trust and cohesion, leader-development programs, training awards, legal actions and Soldier separation programs.

Background

The Fort Hood Independent Review Committee unveiled the results of a three-month examination of the command climate and culture at Fort Hood and the surrounding military community on Dec. 8, 2020. The independent review arose from the questions and concerns voiced by family members, Congress, and various Hispanic advocacy groups during the investigation into the disappearance and murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillén.

The FORSCOM commanding general appointed two related investigations under the provisions of Army Regulation 15-6. 

The investigations are reviewing a number of aspects of the 3rd Calvary Regiment and the 1st Calvary Division at Fort Hood. Once complete, the investigating officers will make findings and recommendations for the appointing authority’s consideration.