US Army fires, suspends 14 soldiers over violence at base

Texas base Fort Hood has seen murders, harassment, sexual assault and alleged prostitution rings, triggering an investigation.

The US Army, headed by Chief of Staff General James McConville, says it has fired or suspended 14 officers and enlisted soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas and ordered policy changes to address chronic leadership failures at the base [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

The United States Army on Tuesday said it had fired or suspended 14 officers and enlisted soldiers at the controversy-laden base at Fort Hood, Texas, and ordered policy changes to address chronic leadership failures that contributed to a widespread pattern of grizzly violence including murder, sexual assaults and harassment.

Two general officers were among those being removed from their jobs, as top army leaders announced the findings of an independent panel’s investigation into problems at the Texas base.

The actions, taken by Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, come in the aftermath of a year that saw 25 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood die due to suicide, homicide or accidents, including the bludgeoning to death of Specialist Vanessa Guillen.

Guillen was missing for about two months before her remains were found.

The firings and suspensions include Army Major General Scott Efflandt, who was left in charge of the base earlier this year when Guillen was killed, as well as Major General Jeffery Broadwater, commander of the 1st Cavalry Divisions.

The administrative actions are expected to trigger investigations that could lead to a wide array of punishments, which could range from a simple letter of reprimand to a military discharge.

The base commander, Army Lieutenant General Pat White, will not face any administrative action. He was deployed to Iraq as the commander there for much of the year.

A photograph of slain Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen is seen on an altar at the base of a mural of Guillen in Washington, DC, in July. The mural was painted to pay respect to Vanessa’s spirit [Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo]

McCarthy also ordered a new army policy that changes how commanders deal with missing soldiers, requiring them to list service members as absent-unknown for up to 48 hours and to do everything they can to locate the service members to determine if their absence is voluntary or not before declaring anyone AWOL, or absent without leave.

Army leaders had already delayed Efflandt’s planned transfer to Fort Bliss, where he was slated to take over leadership of the 1st Armored Division. Command of a division is a key step in an army officer’s career.

Efflandt’s move to the division was paused while the team of independent investigators conducted its probe into whether leadership failures contributed to the killings of several people, including Guillen, and who should be held accountable.

According to investigators, Guillen, 20, was bludgeoned to death at Fort Hood by Specialist Aaron Robinson, who killed himself on July 1 as police were trying to take him into custody.

Her family has said Robinson sexually harassed her, though the army has said there is no evidence supporting that claim.

Also in July, the body of Private Mejhor Morta was found near a reservoir by the base. And in June, officials discovered the remains of another missing soldier, Gregory Morales, about 16km (10 miles) from that lake.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies