US Army Disciplines 14 Soldiers, Creates New Duty Status After Murder
The steps follow the conclusion of one of several inquests into the April murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen.
The U.S. Army fired or suspended more than a dozen soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, on Tuesday, eight months after the harassment and death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen at the hands of another soldier who later committed suicide.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy relieved a deputy commander of the Fort Hood-based III Corps, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt. Fort Hood’s 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander and command sergeant major, Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, were also relieved of duty.
Guillen was assigned to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment when she was murdered in April. Her dismembered body was discovered more than two months later. Guillen’s death and the delay in finding out what happened led McCarthy to launch an independent investigation into the matter on July 10. The investigation released its findings Tuesday.
"I have determined that the issues at Fort Hood are directly related to leadership failures, leaders drive culture and are responsible for everything a unit does or does not happen to do," the secretary said in a news conference Tuesday at the Pentagon. “To restore trust and accountability, I have directed the relief and or suspension of commanders and other leaders from the Corps to the squad level.”
The two soldiers in charge of the 1st Cavalry Division — Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Kenny — were also suspended while a separate investigation into the command’s climate proceeds. There will also be a third investigation “into the resourcing, policies and procedures of the 6th Military Police Group (Criminal Investigation Command),” which handled Guillen’s disappearance, the Army said in a statement Tuesday.
McCarthy also created a new duty status, “Absent-Unknown,” or AUN, as a response to the independent panel’s findings. Previously, when soldiers were discovered missing from accountability formations, the service eventually marked them absent without leave, or AWOL. But an AWOL status is detrimental to a soldier’s career; so oftentimes Army officials would not make a determination until well after the soldier first went missing, which — as in the case of Guillen — led to delays which could possibly have made a difference in finding her sooner. The new status helps Army leaders focus their efforts "on the first 48 hours after a Soldier fails to report for duty, hopefully triggering "immediate action to find them,” McCarthy said.