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14 Fort Hood leaders fired, suspended over sexual assault, harassment on base

The main gate at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo/Released)
December 08, 2020

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy announced on Tuesday that 14 leaders have been relieved or suspended from their positions at Fort Hood after a groundbreaking independent review found widespread failures in leadership.

McCarthy said the review found a “command climate at Fort Hood that was permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

The Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (FHIRC) conducted a third-party review of the command climate and pervasive issues at Fort Hood over the course of 103 days. The committee conducted 647 interviews, 503 of which were with female soldiers on the base.

The review was sparked by the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen on April 22, who was murdered by a fellow soldier involved in an affair Guillen had knowledge of. Guillen had previously said she was being sexually harassed on base.

McCarthy said Guillen’s “tragic death … forced us to take a critical look at our systems, our policies, and ourselves,” adding, “without leadership, policies don’t matter.”

The relieved leaders include Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt, deputy commanding general (Support), III Corps; and Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander and command sergeant major.

The FHIRC’s report included nine major findings and 70 recommendations, all of which McCarthy said he was accepting in full.

Among the findings, the FHIRC found that the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Program (SHARP) program was structurally flawed and its implementation ineffective. Sexual assault or harassment incidents were significantly underreported, permitted by the command climate, and lacked both confidence and procedures for resolutions, the review also found.

McCarthy said that among the 503 female soldiers interviewed, they expressed fear of retaliation, stigma, ostracism, career consequences, and lack of confidentiality for not reporting the results.

Queta Rodriguez, a retired Marine officer and FHIRC panel member, said interviews with the 503 women revealed 93 credible accounts of sexual assaults, of which only 59 were reported, and another 217 unreported accounts of sexual harassment.

“We’re going to make sure every single leader sees these results,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville. “I want to make sure we have an environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect and everyone takes care of each other.”