Investigators reported that Fort Hood leadership blocked sexual assault reportings, shamed victims and failed to identify “textbook” examples of grooming and “serial” offenders, according to Fox News.
The investigation has followed in the wake of 20-year-old soldier Vanessa Guillén’s disappearance and murder.
Several other deaths and suicides have been connected to the U.S. Army base in Killeen, Texas.
The House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee held a hearing on Tuesday.
The committee examined ways to reform criminal investigations in the military in the wake of failures at Fort Hood.
“There was a serious risk there that should’ve been known by the leadership. The NCOs [non-commissioned officers] became the blockers,” Chris Swecker said.
“They did not facilitate or encourage reporting and were part of the shaming of victims.”
“One of the most disturbing things we came across was within two days we were able to identify two or three serial offenders,” Swecker told lawmakers.
Fort Hood “didn’t have enough experienced agents on board to connect the dots and address that intelligence,” he added.
More than two dozen Fort Hood soldiers died in 2020, including in multiple homicides and suicides.
Swecker described agents at Fort Hood were “victims of the system.”
Lower-level unit commanders didn’t encourage service members to report assaults, and in many cases were shaming victims or were actually the perpetrators themselves.
“Unfortunately, a ‘business as usual’ approach was taken by Fort Hood leadership causing female Soldiers, particularly, in the combat Brigades, to slip into survival mode, vulnerable and preyed upon, but fearful to report and be ostracized and re-victimized.”
“During the course of the interviews with the victims and witnesses, we heard textbook grooming, serial offender, repeat offender, predator,” Mary Counts, former FBI Supervisory Special Agent, said.
“We were able to put together a list and almost know when a person came in to be interviewed what case they were talking about.”
“We can and we will do better,” Maj. Gen. Donna Martin told the House Armed Services subcommittee.
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Members of Congress pressed Martin for specific changes she has made to staffing, caseloads and tracking at Fort Hood, but she said decisions are still being made, further frustrating the lawmakers.
Martin said Army leaders are reviewing a number of options, including adding more civilian investigators, creating eight major case response teams and hiring 30 support personnel to do administrative and technology tasks. She said the Army also could put military police in charge of the administrative jobs to free up investigators for cases.
The CID commander also came under fire from Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., about the case of Sgt. Elder Fernandes, who was missing for more than a week last year before he was found dead about 28 miles from Fort Hood. Fernandes, who was from Lynch’s congressional district, had complained of sexual harassment, but the case was determined to be unsubstantiated after the accused passed a polygraph test. Lynch complained that CID hasn’t given Fernandes’ parents the report on their son’s death, despite repeated requests.
Martin said she would personally ensure that the family gets the report.