Army secretary meets with Fort Hood leadership, soldiers after deaths, allegations

Ryan McCarthy says team will investigate 'root cause' of violent acts

FORT HOOD, Texas – Fort Hood, which the Army touts as the “the premier installation to train and deploy heavy forces,” has the most reported sexual assaults, sexual harassments and killings of any base in the military branch, Army secretary Ryan McCarthy said Thursday.

McCarthy spoke at the post after meeting with civilian and military leadership as the Army faces scrutiny amid the death of soldier Vanessa Guillen.

Over the past 24 hours, the Army chief spoke with soldiers in a total of nine sessions to “have hard conversations” about safety concerns.

“(I’m) remarkably disappointed and saddened by one of our own killing a teammate,” he said in a news conference. “It takes a shot at the system and it rattles the system of the trust that you have to have in this profession.”

He said the troops he met with were of all grades and skill level, “as random as we can,” to hear a wide range of voices.

Lawmakers call for military changes after Vanessa Guillen’s death

The news of Guillen’s death reverberated around the nation this summer — as the country faced a reckoning with mistreatment of women and minorities, and injustice at the hands of people with authority.

Pfc. Guillen, 20, disappeared from the base in April and her remains were found July 1 near the Leon River in Bell County, about 20 miles east of Fort Hood. According to a federal complaint, she was bludgeoned to death at the base by a fellow Fort Hood soldier, Army Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, who later killed himself.

Investigators said Robinson had Cecily Aguilar of Killeen help him dismember Guillen before disposing of her body. Aguilar was arrested and has pleaded not guilty to three conspiracy charges in the death of Guillén.

Woman accused of helping dismember Vanessa Guillen’s body pleads not guilty to charges

On Thursday, McCarthy said he could not discuss how Robinson was able to leave the post and obtain a gun before his apparent suicide, as the case remains under investigation. McCarthy also could not discuss if Robinson was on suicide watch.

Guillen’s family has said she was sexually harassed by Robinson, but the Army has said there is no evidence supporting the claim.

Her slaying is just one crime that allegedly occurred at the base. As far as crime goes, McCarthy said “the numbers are high here.”

He said the Army is deploying a group of outside investigators to “understand the root cause associated with the rise of felonies, violent acts, to better understand why this is happening at this installation.”

“The point of emphasis being we’re going to put every resource and all of the energy we can into this entire institution behind fixing these problems.”

Despite calls to close the military institution, McCarthy said the Army post will remain, and soldiers there have given “amazing” contributions to society.

This week, Army officials announced the latest death of a Fort Hood soldier.

The body of Spc. Francisco Gilberto Hernandezvargas, 24, was recovered Sunday after he went underwater while being pulled on an inner tube behind a motorboat on Stillhouse Hollow Lake, according to Fort Hood officials.

Fort Hood soldier drowns; 4th from base dead in months

The body of Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, who officials said drowned, was found July 17 at the same lake.

On June 21, officials authorities discovered skeletal remains in a field in Killeen, near Fort Hood, which were subsequently identified as 24-year-old missing soldier Gregory Morales. U.S. Army officials suspect foul play in his death.

McCarthy on July 10 ordered a review of the command climate at Fort Hood.

President Donald Trump on June 30 met with Guillen’s family, saying it is a “terrible story” and that he would help with funeral expenses. Her family called for justice in the case and for changes in the way the military handles sexual abuse and harassment.

About the Author:

Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.