An independent review panel has been selected to investigate the command climate and culture at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, considered to be one of the Army’s premier installations, according to Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.
Since January, 2016, there have been 147 deaths at Fort Hood, out of a base population of 217,000. Fort Hood is the largest active duty armored post in the U.S. Armed Forces. Nearly 40,000 soldiers work at Fort Hood as infantrymen, cavalrymen, and tankers.
For more than two decades, the military installation has been plagued by accidents, homicides, and suicides, along with death by unknown causes, so much that in 2018, the Army stopped issuing press releases notifying the public of the death of a soldier.
Five civilian highly-qualified experts will lead an independent review. The panel members are Chris Swecker, Jonathan Harmon, Carrie Ricci, Queta Rodriguez and Jack White. All of the panelists, with the exception of Rodriguez, are attorneys.
“It’s an honor for me to support our men and women, our sons and daughters in uniform, to ensure they live and work in environments where they feel safe and respected,” said Swecker, the panel lead.
The Army’s July 10th announcement of the independent review came on the heels of increased pressure for a Congressional review by the family of deceased soldier Spc. Vanessa Guillen’s family. Family members, who met with President Donald J. Trump yesterday, say that Guillen had complained about being sexually harassed by a fellow service member.
When the Army announced the review, it acknowledged Guillen may have been sexually harassed, even though the soldier had filed no formal complaints.
“The Army is committed to taking care of our Soldiers, civilians, families, and Soldiers for life, and this independent review will explore the current command climate and culture at Fort Hood,” McCarthy said.
The panel, assisted by a brigadier general and a staff, will review historical data and conduct interviews with military members, civilians and members of the local community to determine whether the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, and the surrounding military community, reflects the Army’s values, including safety, respect, inclusiveness, and a commitment to diversity, and workplaces and communities free from sexual harassment.
The results, including the findings and recommendations of the review, will be submitted to James E. McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, and Gen. Joseph M. Martin, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. An implementation team, co-chaired by McPherson and Martin, will be assembled to consider the panel’s recommendations and implement changes, as necessary.