Army Investigating Fort Hood Sexual Assault Response Program After Soldier’s Disappearance
The same day that one suspect in the disappearance of Army Pfc. Vanessa Guillen was arrested, and another suspect took his own life, the service announced a probe into the local program intended to respond to and prevent sexual assault.
U.S. Army Forces Command dispatched a seven-member inspector general team to Fort Hood, Texas earlier this week at the request of III Corps officials to determine that the base Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, or SHARP, was working effectively and properly offering support to soldiers.
The team, which will be at Hood until July 3, will focus on three objectives, Hood officials said. Those include assessing how the SHARP program is implemented on the base; investigating whether the base command climate supports soldiers who report sexual harassment or assault; and identifying any systemic issues with the program, or any places where resources are inadequate.
“The inspection team will brief Fort Hood and Army Forces Command leaders upon completion of the inspection,” officials said.
Guillen, a 20-year-old small arms repairer with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, was last seen April 22. Her prolonged disappearance has provoked criticisms that the Army did not do enough to find her.
An attorney for Guillen’s family, Natalie Khawam, said the soldier had reported being sexually harassed by a superior before she disappeared.
On Tuesday, local law enforcement officials and investigators acknowledged they had found unidentified human remains near Fort Hood. And on Wednesday, Army Criminal Investigative Division officials said a “junior soldier” from the base had fled Tuesday evening, when approached by law enforcement, had taken his own life. A second suspect, the estranged wife of a former soldier, was arrested and awaits charges in the Bell County Jail, officials said.
At a Wednesday press conference, Khawam called the Army’s system for caring for those like Guillen “broken,” and said the family wanted reform, and a system in which military sexual assault and harassment victims can report these offenses outside their chain of command.
Fort Hood officials plan to hold a press conference with updates on Guillen’s case Thursday morning.
The base also announced Wednesday that the soldier had been promoted to the rank of specialist “due to time in grade.”
— Gina Harkins contributed to this report.
— Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.
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