"Where appropriate, we intend to seek justice on behalf of those in uniform," the subcommittee chairs said while announcing their probe of the Texas Army base.
Two congressional subcommittees on Tuesday announced an investigation into the chain of command at Fort Hood following a recent spate of deaths at the Central Texas Army base.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security and the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel said they are seeking documents and information about how Fort Hood’s leadership has responded to a series of deaths and instances of sexual harassment and abuse.
“Where appropriate, we intend to seek justice on behalf of those in uniform, and their families, who may have been failed by a military system and culture that was ultimately responsible for their care and protection,” the committee chairs, U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., and Jackie Speier, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.
Spc. Vanessa Guillen went missing in April and her body was found near the Leon River in July. The soldier suspected of killing Guillen, Spc. Aaron Robinson, killed himself as police tried to arrest him.
Guillen was the victim of sexual harassment, her sister said, but she didn’t report the sexual harassment out of fear of retaliation. The Army in June opened an independent review of base leadership’s handling of her case.
Lynch and Speier also mentioned Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales, a private at Fort Hood whose body was found in June, nearly a year after he went missing in August 2019.
Investigations into two additional deaths, of Pvt. Mejhor Morta and Sgt. Elder Fernandes, are ongoing. Authorities are also probing the deaths of Pfc. Brandon Scott Rosecrans, Spc. Freddy Delacruz Jr. and Spc. Shelby Tyler Jones.
Both Guillen and Fernandes were allegedly sexually abused or harassed prior to their deaths.
“While the Army has directed an independent review of Fort Hood, Congressional oversight is necessary to determine whether base leadership — by omission or commission — has allowed or enabled a culture to exist that undermines the values and traditions of the U.S. Army,” the committee chairs wrote.
Between 2014 and 2019, an average of 129 felonies were committed annually at Fort Hood, including murder, kidnapping and sexual assault, according to the letter. McCarthy acknowledged during a press briefing in August that the base had “the most cases for sexual assault and harassment and murders for our entire formation of the U.S. Army.”
The Army has until Oct. 1 to turn over requested information to Congress.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/09/08/fort-hood-congress-investigate/. The Texas Tribune is proud to celebrate 10 years of exceptional journalism for an exceptional state. Explore the next 10 years with us.