14 Fort Hood soldiers fired, suspended over violence at base
This follows a year that saw 25 soldiers assigned to the Texas Army base die from suicide, homicide or accidents, including the bludgeoning of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, 20, killed by Spc. Aaron Robinson of Calumet City, investigators say.
WASHINGTON — Army leaders are firing or suspending 14 officers and enlisted soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, and ordering policy changes to address chronic leadership failures at the base that contributed to a widespread pattern of violence including murder, sexual assaults and harassment.
Two general officers are among those being removed from their jobs, as top Army leaders on Tuesday announced the findings of an independent panel’s investigation into problems at the Texas base.
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The actions, taken by Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, come in the aftermath of a year that saw 25 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood die due to suicide, homicide or accidents, including the bludgeoning death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who was missing for about two months before her remains were found.
The firings and suspensions include Army Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was left in charge of the base earlier this year when Guillen was killed, as well as Maj. Gen. Jeffery Broadwater, commander of the 1st Cavalry Divisions. The administrative actions are expected to trigger investigations that could lead to a wide range of punishments. Those punishments could go from a simple letter of reprimand to a military discharge.
The base commander, Army Lt. Gen. Pat White, will not face any administrative action. He was deployed to Iraq as the commander there for much of the year.
Army leaders had already delayed Efflandt’s planned transfer to Fort Bliss, where he was slated to take over leadership of the 1st Armored Division. Command of a division is a key step in an Army officer’s career.
Efflandt’s move was paused while the team of independent investigators conducted its probe into whether leadership failures contributed to the killings of several people, including Guillen, and who should be held accountable.
According to investigators, Guillen, 20, was bludgeoned to death at Fort Hood by Spc. Aaron Robinson, who killed himself on July 1 as police were trying to take him into custody. Guillen’s family has said Robinson, from south suburban Calumet City, sexually harassed her, though the Army has said there is no evidence supporting that claim.
The body of Pvt. Mejhor Morta was found in July near a reservoir by the base. In June, officials discovered the remains of another missing soldier, Gregory Morales, about 10 miles from that lake. All together, so far this year, 25 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood have died due to suicide, homicide or accidents, compared with 32 last year and 24 in 2018.
In an Associated Press interview last month, White said that he and other commanders bear responsibility for the problems. But he said it will take time to correct what some believe are systemic failures, and that some units will respond more quickly than others.
“I think all leadership is accountable for it, if you’re in this chain of command,” White said. “We have got to do everything we can to get this back on track.”