Soldiers from a Texas base keep dying. Lawmakers want to probe ‘abhorrent conditions’

·2 min read

A group of Texas senators is calling for an investigation into what it calls “abhorrent conditions” at the Fort Hood military base after several soldiers were found dead this year.

Members of the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus penned a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Liaison to the Secretary Scott Mras and lawmakers with the Texas Congressional Delegation demanding an “independent congressional investigation” into the sprawling Army base.

Last week, Sgt. Elder Fernandes became the ninth Fort Hood soldier to die this year. A civilian found Fernandes’ body hanging from a tree days after he was reported missing, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

“This event, and the accumulation of many others, invokes questions about the safety protocols and processes in place at Fort Hood military base,” senators wrote in the letter dated Aug. 28. “To honor these soldiers and assist in easing the pain of these families, an independent investigation is imperative.”

In its letter, the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus acknowledged the U.S. Army’s efforts to examine recent events at the base, but argued the military is essentially investigating itself. The group said it also pressed for an independent probe after the murder and disappearance of Spc. Vanessa Guillen.

Human remains were found near the base in late June, more than two months after the Army specialist went missing. Authorities later confirmed they were those of Guillen, 20, CBS News reported. Authorities determined she was bludgeoned to death and buried in a shallow grave by a fellow soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson.

“I am markedly disappointed and saddened by one of our own killing a teammate,” McCarthy told CBS News, calling Guillen’s death “a tipping point.” “It takes a shot at the system and it rattles the system of the trust that you have to have in this profession.”

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Robinson, who Guillen’s family said had sexually harassed the slain soldier, according to CBS News, killed himself July 1 as authorities attempted to arrest him.

Army officials said Fernandes had also complained of “abusive sexual contact” in the days before his disappearance on Aug. 17, the New York Daily News reported. Texas senators are now pushing for amendments to the Army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Program (SHARP), which they said doesn’t include an examination of the processes involving sexual assault cases “or the disappearances and deaths of these soldiers.”

“Anything other than a thorough, transparent investigation into the processes, discipline and the United States Army’s handling of the matters in their aftermath would be a disservice to the Guillen, (Gregory) Morales, (Mejhor) Morta and now Fernandes families,” the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus concluded.

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