Fort Hood review panel tells House Committee removing top brass won't change a culture that sees soldiers avoid mental health treatment in fear for their careers after 'damning' report in the wake of Vanessa Guillen's death

 The five members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee testified on their damning findings before House leaders on Wednesday and said the firing and suspension of 14 leaders and soldiers at the Army base isn't enough to change its culture. 

The panelists elaborated on the results first shared Tuesday and offered recommendations for the Killeen base where 20-year-old soldier Vanessa Guillen was murdered in April. 

The report uncovered chronic leadership failures that contributed to a widespread pattern of violence including murder, sexual assaults and harassment. 

When asked if the firings were enough during Wednesday's hearing, panel member Jonathan Harmon said: 'The answer is no....It's going to take a lot more work. Changing culture is hard and it doesn’t come from firing 14 people.' 

Panel chair Chris Swecker said Wednesday the panel spoke to all 300 three and four-star commanders in the Army this morning and the firings, which included three top commanders, surprised them.   

'The action on the 14 got their attention. This actually surprised us...We thought the action was decisive and certainly got the people’s attention. We feel like they’re listening,' he said.   

Panel member Carrie Ricci revealed that while soldiers at the base had the opportunity to seek mental health care, many were timid to get help for fear that it could jinx their careers. 


Spc. Guillen, 20, disappeared from the Killeen, Texas base in April and her dismembered and buried remains were found on June 30 near the Leon River

Spc. Guillen, 20, disappeared from the Killeen, Texas base in April and her dismembered and buried remains were found on June 30 near the Leon River 

On Tuesday the Army announced 14 commanders and enlisted soldiers were fired or suspended as a result of the panel's review. When asked if that was enough during Wednesday's hearing, panel member Jonathan Harmon said: 'The answer is no. Changing culture is hard and it doesn’t come from firing 14 people'

On Tuesday the Army announced 14 commanders and enlisted soldiers were fired or suspended as a result of the panel's review. When asked if that was enough during Wednesday's hearing, panel member Jonathan Harmon said: 'The answer is no. Changing culture is hard and it doesn’t come from firing 14 people'

On Wednesday morning panel members spoke to all three and four-star commanders in the Army.  'We thought the action was decisive and certainly got the people’s attention. We feel like they’re listening,' Panel chair Chris Swecker said

On Wednesday morning panel members spoke to all three and four-star commanders in the Army.  'We thought the action was decisive and certainly got the people’s attention. We feel like they’re listening,' Panel chair Chris Swecker said

Harmon doubled down that firing Army personnel isn't enough to change Fort Hood's issues. 

'Our report was very clear that the problems at Fort Hood were not the result of one commander. They were not the result of one administration but they were really the result of years of benign neglect in the area of sexual harassment and assault, a lack of focus, a lack of accountability,' Harmon said.

On Wednesday the panel said the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) needs more experienced agents to deal with disappearances and sexual assault cases because they found many were young and inexperienced.

The panel found only three or four officers within CID had more than three years of experience. 

They said the base also needs more 'human touch' and communication between superiors on the base and soldiers to better care for their well-being. 

They said they found many commanders didn't know their enlisted soldiers. 

The death of Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, who was found dead hanging from a tree on August 19, was brought up at the hearing. 

He had allegedly been hazed and 'humiliated' by peers after he reported he was sexually assaulted by a male superior, his family's lawyer said 

'On Elder Fernandes - we had some deep concerns and I go back to the inexperience, in some cases of the (CID),' Swecker said. 


Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, was found dead hanging from a tree on August 19. He had allegedly been hazed and 'humiliated' by peers after he reported he was sexually assaulted by a male superior, his family's lawyer said

Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, was found dead hanging from a tree on August 19. He had allegedly been hazed and 'humiliated' by peers after he reported he was sexually assaulted by a male superior, his family's lawyer said. The panel said inexperienced CID investigators exonerated his alleged harasser based off a polygraph test

'In this case his alleged harasser was exonerated on a polygraph. I personally don’t have a lot of faith in the polygraph. That should not be the sole criteria in exonerating someone on sexual harassment. 

'We go back to the conundrum of CID with rapid investigations. We want every suicide investigated to the Nth degree to see what happened,' he added.

'What we were trying to say was any experienced agent, five, ten-year agent wouldn't get rid of a case based on a polygraph…That’s not the way its supposed to be used,' Swecker said. 

He also said the CID needs to better collaborate with local police enforcement in their investigations. 

Panel member Carrie Ricci said that while soldiers at the base had the opportunity to seek mental health care, many were timid to get help for fear that it could jinx their careers

Panel member Carrie Ricci said that while soldiers at the base had the opportunity to seek mental health care, many were timid to get help for fear that it could jinx their careers

The hearing was chaired by California Rep. Jackie Speier who is the primary sponsor of the I Am Vanessa Guillen bill. She said the federal government has spent almost $1billion over the past decade to address accountability issues within the Army and little has changed

The hearing was chaired by California Rep. Jackie Speier who is the primary sponsor of the I Am Vanessa Guillen bill. She said the federal government has spent almost $1billion over the past decade to address accountability issues within the Army and little has changed

The panel was also asked about the mental health resources available at the base. 

Ricci said: 'I did look into behavioral health and the good news is that there are a myriad of avenues where soldiers can get quality mental health. The bad news is that soldiers don’t always have confidence that they can go to get mental health help.'

'We also noted that with the embedded behavior health specialists there’s such a connection to the command that the language used with us was "Our priority is to return to soldier to duty," when the first priority should be to make the solider whole,' she added.

She said while there are at least four different avenues that soldiers at Fort Hood can get quality mental health care from, many don't pursue help. 

'They don’t have the confidence... it might hurt their career, some even thought it might hurt them later in civilian life,' she said. 

The hearing was chaired by California Rep. Jackie Speier who is the primary sponsor of the I Am Vanessa Guillen bill which will allow soldiers to report sexual assault and harassment outside of their chain of control.

At the conclusion of the hearing she said the federal government has spent almost $1billion over the past decade to address accountability issues within the Army and little has changed. 

Army Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was left in charge of the base earlier this year when Guillen was killed, was fired following the review

Army Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was left in charge of the base earlier this year when Guillen was killed, was fired following the review

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater, 1st Cavalry Division commanding general, was suspended following the review
Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny, 1st Cavalry Division command sergeant major was suspended

Suspended: Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater (left) and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny (right), both of the 1st Cavalry Division, were suspended following the review

Col. Ralph Overland, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander, who was in charge of Guillen's unit, was fired following the independent review
Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment command sergeant major, who was in charge of Guillen's unit, was also fired

Fired: Col. Ralph Overland (left), the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp (right), both of whom were in charge of Guillen's unit, were fired


In Tuesday's dramatic purge Army Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was left in charge of the base earlier this year when Guillen was killed, was fired from his post. 

Army leaders had already delayed Efflandt's planned transfer to Fort Bliss, where he was supposed to take over leadership of the 1st Armored Division, due to the investigations into the base. 

The base commander, Army Lt. Gen. Pat White, will not face any administrative action because he was deployed to Iraq as the commander there for much of the year. 

The leadership of Guillen’s unit, Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment were also fired.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny, 1st Cavalry Division commanding general and command sergeant major, were both suspended. 

Their suspension is pending the outcome of a new Army Regulation (AR) 15-6 investigation of 1st Cavalry Division’s command climate and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program. 

The names of the battalion level and below commanders and leaders who received administrative action were not released. 

'The investigation after Vanessa Guillen's murder found Fort Hood has a command climate that was permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault,' Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

He said the issues plaguing Fort Hood are 'directly related to leadership failures.' 

As a result of the findings a separate probe into staffing and procedures at the base's Criminal Investigation Command unit, which is responsible for investigating crimes on Fort Hood, was also ordered as a result of the investigation. 

The investigation was launched in July and the panel interviewed hundreds of people on the base and in the area to assess the Killeen base's command culture and handling of sexual harassment cases and disappearances.

Fort Hood review panel tells House Committee removing top brass won't change a culture that sees soldiers avoid mental health treatment in fear for their careers after 'damning' report in the wake of Vanessa Guillen's death Fort Hood review panel tells House Committee removing top brass won't change a culture that sees soldiers avoid mental health treatment in fear for their careers after 'damning' report in the wake of Vanessa Guillen's death Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 05:02 Rating: 5

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