Senior officers faulted in probe spurred by Vanessa Guillen’s death

Washington, Dec 8 (efe-epa).- Two generals are among 14 members of the US armed forces facing disciplinary action following an investigation spurred by the murder of soldier Vanessa Guillen, the secretary of the Army said Tuesday.

Guillen, 20, went missing April 22 from the Fort Hood base in Texas and her mutilated remains were found at the end of June in the nearby Leon River.

She disappeared after telling family members that she was being sexually harassed by a fellow soldier.

“I am gravely disappointed that leaders failed to effectively create a climate that treated all soldiers with dignity and respect, and that failed to reinforce everyone’s obligation to prevent and properly respond to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told a press conference.

Investigators believe that Spc. Guillen was killed on base by another soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, who took his own life on June 30 while being questioned about the case by civilian law enforcement.

Robinson’s girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, is accused of helping him chop up Guillen’s body and dumping it at a spot about 32km (20mi) from Fort Hood.

While the Army has been unable to substantiate the assertion that Robinson sexually harassed Guillen, McCarthy said the allegation remains under investigation.

Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt, Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp were among the people relieved of duty. Another high-ranking officer, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater, has been suspended while investigators look into the command climate in the 1st Cavalry Division, headquartered at Fort Hood.

Efflandt has been the acting base commander at Fort Hood for most of 2020, including the period of Guillen’s correspondence.

Alongside the probe into Guillen’s death, McCarthy appointed an Independent Review Committee to examine the culture at Fort Hood, where at least 31 soldiers have perished this year in violent incidents or accidents.

“The findings of the committee identified major flaws with the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention Program from implementation, reporting, and adjudication; fundamental issues with the Fort Hood Criminal Investigation Command field office activities that led to unaddressed problems on Fort Hood; and finally, a command climate at Fort Hood that was permissive of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault,” the Army secretary said Tuesday.

McCarthy announced the creation of a “People First Task Force” with a mission to formulate plans for implementation of the committee’s recommendations.

In the meantime, he said, the Army will immediately adopt a new policy for situations where a soldier goes missing.

“It clarifies expectations and responsibilities of unit commanders and Army law enforcement authorities, focusing on the first 48 hours a soldier is missing,” McCarthy said. “It creates new processes for soldiers’ reporting for duty status and casualty status, for supporting missing soldiers’ families.” EFE


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