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Army Punishes 14 At Fort Hood After Review Sparked By Vanessa Guillén's Killing

"This is not about metrics, but about possessing the ability to have the human decency to show compassion," Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy said Tuesday as he announced punishments and changes related to the killing of Vanessa Guillén.
"This is not about metrics, but about possessing the ability to have the human decency to show compassion," Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy said Tuesday as he announced punishments and changes related to the killing of Vanessa Guillén.

Updated at 7:59 p.m. ET

The Army is punishing 14 leaders at Fort Hood, relieving some high-ranking officers of duty and suspending other leaders after a review sparked by the killing of Spc. Vanessa Guillén.

Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy cited profound problems at the base, including a command climate that was "permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault."

The disciplinary moves and other changes stem from the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, whose chair,Chris Swecker, said its recommendations are meant "to address deeply dysfunctional norms and regain Soldiers' trust" at Fort Hood and possibly beyond.

Following Guillén's death and a string of other disappearances and deaths at the Texas post, the Army in September removed Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt as Fort Hood's senior commander. That change had been previously scheduled — but Efflandt was kept at the base rather than moving on to another command. In the new disciplinary moves, Efflandt has now been relieved.

McCarthy said he has accepted all of the review committee's findings. The group submitted a report with nine findings and 70 recommendations, touching on areas from protocols around missing soldiers and crime prevention to public relations.

Guillén went missing on April 22. Her remains were found on June 30 and the Army confirmed they belonged to Guillén one week later. The day after the remains were found, Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, died by suicide as authorities attempted to taking him into custody. Cecily Aguilar, 22, was charged with conspiracy to tamper with evidence in connection with Guillén's disappearance.

"The tragic death of Vanessa Guillén and a rash of other challenges at Fort Hood forced us totake a critical look at our systems, our policies and ourselves," the secretary said in a midday briefing on the changes. "But without leadership, systems don't matter."

The committee's report will force the Army to change its culture, McCarthy pledged.

"This is not about metrics, but about possessing the ability to have the human decency to show compassion for our teammates and to look out for the best interests of our soldiers," he said.

The Army listed the leaders it relieved, starting with Efflandt. Also relieved were Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander and command sergeant major.

Other officers and leaders are suspended, pending the results of an investigation into 1st Cavalry Division's command climate and its handling of the sexual harassment and assault prevention program.

Citing its routine policy, the Army said it doesn't identify commanders and leaders at or below the battalion level who are the subjects of administrative action.

The Guillén family and their attorney, Natalie Khawam, held a press conference Tuesday after the review committee released their findings. They said they won't stop until legislative changes take place.

"If you're going to tell me that the Army is messed up or Fort Hood is messed up or something is wrong, tell me what you're doing to fix it," Khawam said. "When somebody speaks up and they get punished for speaking up, that's un-American. It was widespread at Fort Hood. Things aren't complete, they're not finalized. We're not finished. We are just starting."

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