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National

14 At Fort Hood Punished After Vanessa Guillén's Killing Sparked A Review

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Fourteen leaders at Fort Hood in Texas have been fired or suspended by the Army. This decision follows an investigation into command issues. And that investigation was spurred by violence, including murder, sexual assault and harassment at the military base that dates back years now. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced his decision at the Pentagon.

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RYAN MCCARTHY: I am gravely disappointed that leaders failed to effectively create a climate that treated all soldiers with dignity and respect.

GREENE: Rose Thayer is a regional reporter for the Stars and Stripes news organization. She's been covering this story and joins us from Austin, Texas. Rose, thanks for being here.

ROSE THAYER: Hi. Good morning.

GREENE: How in the world did we get here on a U.S. military base?

THAYER: Well, last summer, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy put together the civilian panel to look at the rash of violent crimes at Fort Hood that you mentioned that included five homicides at the base this year. Most notably in the media was the death of 20-year-old specialist Vanessa Guillen, who was killed on base by a fellow soldier. It took more than two months for investigators to learn what happened to Vanessa. And during that time, her family talked about the sexual harassment she had faced on base.

And this led to this review panel and several other investigations that are still ongoing. And yesterday, it came out that this committee found that Fort Hood's leadership had created a permissive environment for sexual assault and harassment at Fort Hood, and that it had ineffectively implemented its prevention program, which is known as SHARP.

GREENE: OK. So the Army secretary, Ryan McCarthy, clearly saying that there was leadership failure here that led to this based on these findings. What, exactly, did he announce yesterday?

THAYER: So yesterday he announced that he relieved or suspended 14 leaders at the base. That included a two-star general was relieved of his job at III Corps. Another two-star general was suspended and pending another investigation. And the command team at the helm of Vanessa Guillen's unit was also fired from their job as well. He also mentioned there were 70 recommendations that came out of this report and that he has created a task force to let him know by March how to best implement every single one of these recommendations. And those recommendations will go Army-wide, not just at Fort Hood.

GREENE: So you are at the base when this was announced. What did it - what was it like there?

THAYER: Yeah. The Fort Hood commander, General White, held a press conference yesterday after Secretary McCarthy made the announcement. It was a very somber tone. He wanted people to know and his command teams at Fort Hood to know that this is something that's going to make changes. And he is going to take it very seriously. He then brought 2,000 soldiers together at an outdoor football stadium. And he addressed them, quite frankly, about what was happening.

And, you know, many of those soldiers had been at work all day. They didn't even know what had happened. They didn't know that some of their chain of command had been fired earlier in the day. But afterwards, I spoke to one female soldier who - she's been following this very closely. She's been working at Fort Hood for about a year now. And she has friends who are impacted by this. And she really wants to see these changes.

GREENE: And you said these changes could go beyond Fort Hood, right?

THAYER: Yes. Secretary McCarthy noted that, you know, while this report looked specifically at Fort Hood, the committee members, you know, heard from soldiers about their experiences at other installations as well. And so he wants to implement these changes across the army.

GREENE: Rose Thayer is a regional reporter for Stars and Stripes. Thanks so much for your reporting this morning.

THAYER: Yes. Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.