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Army fires, suspends 14 at Fort Hood over 'permissive environment' for sex offenses

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, shown here in 2019, announced Tuesday that 14 leaders at Fort Hood have been suspended or relieved of their positions. Photo by Dana Clarke/U.S. Army
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, shown here in 2019, announced Tuesday that 14 leaders at Fort Hood have been suspended or relieved of their positions. Photo by Dana Clarke/U.S. Army

Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Fourteen leaders at Fort Hood have been suspended or relieved from their positions following an independent review's finding that the base's command climate created a "permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment."

Army secretary Ryan McCarthy confirmed the officers' dismissal Tuesday following the release of a report from a five-member civilian panel convened to investigate the installation's command climate and culture.

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McCarthy convened the review panel in July following the disappearance of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén this spring.

"This report, without a doubt, will cause the Army to change our culture," McCarthy said.

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Guillén disappeared in April and her remains were found nearly three months later near the base.

In July, police were trying to arrest Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, in connection with her death, when the man ended his life.

A woman identified as Robinson's girlfriend, 22-year-old Cecily Aguilar, was arrested on federal charges of tampering with evidence and is awaiting a court date in January.

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Guillén's family has said she told relatives and colleagues that she was sexually harassed at the base.

The independent review panel found that the Army's Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Program had failed to reduce sexual assault and harassment because the command staff failed to instill the program's values in personnel throughout the base.

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Army officials also said they will change their procedures to begin searching for soldiers soon after they are reported missing, rather than assuming they've gone absent without leave.

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The panel examined the base's Criminal Investigations Division operations, finding a "deficient climate" where no one took responsibility for looking for missing soldiers.

Tuesday's firings and suspensions follow months of scrutiny and leadership changes after a series of homicides and other untimely deaths on the installation.

In August, McCarthy said Fort Hood had the highest amount of violent and nonviolent crime in the Army.

This year the base has reported five soldier homicides in 2020 -- more than in the last five years combined -- as well as at least seven suicides as well as multiple accidents and deaths that merited investigation.

Those include the September death of 25-year-old Pvt. Corlton L. Chee, who collapsed during a training exercise, and the suicide of 23-year-old Elder Fernandes, who went missing in August.

Following the revelation that Fernandes, who had filed a sexual assault complaint, had died by suicide, the Army installed a new commanding general at the installation.

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