Fort Hood’s Toxic Culture? Red Flags Raised Over Mysterious Disappearances, Sexual Assaults | Fox News (January 6, 2021)

Fort Hood’s toxic culture? Red flags raised over mysterious disappearances, sexual assaults | Hollie McKay, Fox News (January 6, 2020):

The sizable military installation has long come under fire over allegations of coverups and abuse

The report also pointed to a lack of experience and high turnover within the ranks of the Criminal Investigation Department, leading to problems with launching sufficient investigations.

As it stands, there are more than 1,000 deserters wanted by the U.S. Army and it remains unclear explicitly what is being done to determine their fates. Ten months before Guillen disappeared, Pvt. Gregory Morales also vanished from Fort Hood. His body was unintentionally recovered a few miles from the base in June, during the search for Guillen. He had been listed as AWOL in August 2019 and later as a deserter.

However, for his mother, Kim Wedel, her life in Oklahoma halted as she pleaded for assistance and answers from Fort Hood’s Army Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

“If any other business had this many glaring problems, leadership would be gone. Why did it take an investigation to see that the CID was understaffed and overwhelmed? There was a lack of response from CID, and they certainly didn’t know what to do with me as a mom calling all the time,” Wedel told Fox News.

The Killeen Police Department is heading the investigation into Morales’ death, in which foul play is suspected, according to local reports. 

“The Army didn’t care enough to see there was a problem,” Wedel asserted. “I still haven’t really heard from anyone down there. My son will never be at the forefront, and it is shocking how many parents like us are out there. People don’t just disappear because they choose to.”

However, many soldiers and families connected to Fort Hood told Fox News that the personnel changes were merely cosmetic, and they feared “business as usual” when the spotlight faded.

Jennifer Norris, an Air Force veteran and military crime analyst who has focused on Fort Hood issues since 2016, said in order to look forward, one also must look back.

“The deaths ruled a suicide – they need to be investigated. Why did they take their lives? Were those deaths properly investigated? Was it really a suicide, or was it a murder? Everything needs to be questioned,” she added. “We can’t just pretend the last 20 years didn’t happen.” 

Read more from Fox News here.

Related Links:
Report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (November 6, 2020)
15 Things Every American Should Know About the Fort Hood Report
Fort Hood’s toxic culture? Red flags raised over mysterious disappearances, sexual assaults
Tragedies At Fort Hood Have Led The Army To Rethink Its Response When Soldiers Go Missing
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present)
Washington D.C. Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of the Armed Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (December 12, 2017)
Speier, Mullin Introduce Bipartisan ‘I Am Vanessa Guillén Act’ to Transform the Military’s Response to Sexual Violence & Missing Servicemembers (September 16, 2020)
Unsolved Homicide: Fort Hood Army Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales Reported AWOL; Based on Anonymous Tip, Remains Found in Shallow Grave in Killeen 10 Months Later (August 19, 2019)
Timeline: Army Sgt. Kelton Sphaler and Army Vet Scott Weinhold Reported Missing at Belton Lake on Fort Hood; After Search Launched, Both Recovered in Water (January 21, 2019)
Fort Hood Army Cpl. Christopher Ferguson Died of Undetermined Causes; CID Claimed Death Was Accident; CBS News Reported Suicide (March 25, 2007)
Fort Hood Army Staff Sgt. Paul Norris Fatally Shot Spc. Kamisha Block in Murder-Suicide in Iraq; Family Calls for Congressional Hearings & Independent Investigations (August 16, 2007)
Research Reveals Pattern of Violence, Suspicious Deaths, Problematic Death Investigations, and Cover-up at Fort Hood in Texas (September 11, 2020)
Stars and Stripes: Why is Fort Hood the Army’s Most Crime-Ridden Post? (August 21, 2020)
Austin American-Statesman: Vanessa Guillen’s Death Shines Light on More Tragedies at Fort Hood (July 28, 2020)
Open Letter to House of Representatives in Support of an Independent Investigation of the Murder of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood (July 7, 2020)
Unsolved Homicide Cases Affiliated with Fort Hood (January 1, 2016 to Present)
Never Forgotten: The Fort Hood Fallen (2016)

Fort Hood Army Sgt. Elder Fernandes Found Deceased in Temple, Texas; Death Ruled Suicide by Dallas Medical Examiner (August 25, 2020)

Sgt. Elder Fernandes, U.S. Army

Death of a Fort Hood Soldier: Sgt Elder Fernandes (August 26, 2020):

Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, whose home of record is listed as Brockton, Mass., was found [deceased] near Lake Polk in Temple. He entered the Army in September 2016 as a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist and has been assigned to the 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB), 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division since April 2019. Fernandes’ awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.

Fernandes was last seen in Killeen on Aug 17. When he was reported absent on Aug. 18, Soldiers from his unit initiated a thorough search for him, both on and off post while cooperating with the Killeen Police Department and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) in an attempt to find him. The unit distributed his photograph, searched motorpools, parking lots, barracks, and headquarters buildings. Members of his unit visited local hotels and hospitals throughout Central Texas trying to find him as they expanded their search efforts.

The unit is cooperating with local authorities from the cities of Killeen and Temple as this incident remains under investigation. The Division will continue to support the Fernandes Family during this difficult time and requests everyone respects their privacy during this time of grief.

Senators Markey and Warren and Rep. Lynch Call for Review of Army Fort Hood to Include Case of Sergeant Elder Fernandes (September 4, 2020):

Massachusetts lawmakers write “evidence suggests that the Army failed to give him the proper support and care that he needed while serving at Fort Hood” Massachusetts (September 4, 2020) – U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (MA-01) today called on the independent review panel investigating the command climate and culture at U.S. Army Base Fort Hood, Texas to include the case of Army Sergeant Elder Fernandes in its review of the base. Sergeant Fernandes, a 23 year-old native of Brockton, Massachusetts who was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, was found dead on August 25 after having gone missing on August 17. Shortly after he was reported missing, public reports revealed that in May of this year Sergeant Fernandes had reported a sexual assault allegation against a member of his chain of command and also became the target of bullying, hazing, and harassment. The Fort Hood independent review panel was created before Sgt. Fernandes’s disappearance, so the Massachusetts lawmakers are asking the panel to ensure it includes his case in the scope of their review and report. 

In their letter, the lawmakers urged the Fort Hood panel to review the following issues: 

  • The circumstances surrounding Sergeant Fernandes’s treatment by commanding officers and peers while serving at Fort Hood, including allegations of sexual assault, bullying, hazing, or harassment; 
  • The adequacy of the investigation conducted by the Army of his reported sexual assault;
  • The circumstances surrounding his disappearance and death, including the Army’s coordination with local and state law enforcement in the search for him after he was reported missing, and;
  • The adequacy of Army’s coordination with and treatment of Sergeant Fernandes’s family, including but not limited to information-sharing during the search for Sergeant Fernandes and in the period after his body was discovered, and the release of his medical, service, and treatment records thereafter.

“Although an Army-led investigation remains ongoing into the cause and circumstances of Sergeant Fernandes’s death, the evidence suggests that the Army failed to give him the proper support and care that he needed while serving at Fort Hood,” write the lawmakers in the their letter. “As you conduct your independent, comprehensive review of Fort Hood, we urge you to consider the facts of Sergeant Fernandes’s case. We will do everything we can to ensure that Sergeant Fernandes receives the justice he deserves, that Army leaders are held accountable, and to prevent harm to any other soldiers at Fort Hood. We stand by, ready to assist in your review in any way possible, and we look forward to seeing your final report.” 

A copy of the letter can be found HERE

Senators Warren and Markey along with Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) today sent a bipartisan request to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Ok.) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) asking that the Committee hold a public hearing to probe the findings and recommendations of the independent review panel on the command climate and culture at U.S. Army Base Fort Hood, Texas.

In the News:

YouTube:

Missing Fort Hood soldier part of open ‘abuse sexual contact’ investigation
Mother of missing Fort Hood soldier pleads for the public’s help to find him
Family of Sgt. Elder Fernandes met with Fort Hood officials Sunday
Family, friends of missing Fort Hood soldier Elder Fernandes post flyers and search around Killeen
Family has questions | The search for Fort Hood solder Elder Fernandes continues
Fort Hood Commander Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt speaks on missing soldier Elder Fernandes
Fort Hood confirms death of Sgt. Elder Fernandes, says sexual assault allegations were ‘unsubstantiated’
Body Believed To Be Missing Fort Hood Soldier Elder Fernandes Found In Texas
Live: Fort Hood holds press conference on late Sgt. Elder Fernandes
Vigil held for Fort Hood soldier Elder Fernandes
Lynch: ‘Cancer or sickness’ at Fort Hood after local soldier’s death
Death of Sgt. Elder Fernandes shines spotlight on military suicide
Fort Hood soldier’s family doesn’t believe what Army told them about death of Sgt. Elder Fernandes (September 1, 2020)
Brockton family of Fort Hood soldier demands answers after he was found dead off base
Family Demands Justice After Fort Hood Soldier Found Dead
Family, Lawmakers Call For Investigation Into Death Of Fort Hood Soldier
Mother Of Soldier Who Died At Fort Hood Speaks Out About Loss

Related Links:
Remembering Sgt. Elder Fernandes | U.S. Army Fort Hood
Another Fort Hood soldier goes missing, this time ‘of his own accord’
Another Fort Hood soldier, Elder Fernandes, is missing. The Army asks for help.
Brockton Soldier Elder Fernandes, Who Reported Sexual Abuse, Is Missing From Fort Hood
Missing Fort Hood soldier was victim in ‘abusive sexual contact’ investigation, Army says
Missing Fort Hood soldier part of open ‘abuse sexual contact’ investigation
Fort Hood Soldier Gone Missing After Reporting Sexual Abuse
Missing Fort Hood soldier reported sexual abuse months before disappearance, Army official says
A 23-year-old Fort Hood soldier who has been missing for a week had reported sexual abuse before his disappearance
Fort Hood Soldier Reported Being Sexually Abused Before Vanishing 1 Week Ago
Army, police searching for missing Fort Hood soldier Elder Fernandes
Army Asks for Help in Search for Another Missing Ft. Hood Soldier
Fort Hood: Foul play not suspected in Fernandes disappearance
No foul play suspected in case of missing Fort Hood soldier
Family of Sgt. Elder Fernandes meets with Fort Hood officials Sunday
Search party combs Killeen neighborhood for missing soldier
Elder Fernandes: Body found in search for missing soldier
Attorney: Missing Fort Hood soldier’s body found in Texas
Army confirms that a missing Fort Hood soldier has been found dead
Missing Brockton soldier who disappeared from Fort Hood found dead
Body Of Missing Fort Hood Soldier Elder Fernandes Found A Week After Disappearance
The Body Of Missing Fort Hood Soldier Elder Fernandes Was Found Hanging From A Tree
Fort Hood soldier, 23, found hanged was ‘humiliated’ after reporting he was sexually assaulted by male superior, which led him to be bullied, harassed, and hazed when news spread around the base, his family’s lawyer says
Fort Hood Sgt. Elder Fernandes ‘humiliated’ after reporting sexual abuse, says family’s lawyer
Family of Fort Hood soldier demands answers after body found in Texas, attorney says
Body of missing Fort Hood soldier Elder Fernandes given plane-side honors in Boston
Body of Brockton native, Fort Hood soldier Sgt. Elder Fernandes returns home
Body of Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23-year-old Brockton native found near Fort Hood, returns to Massachusetts
Funeral held for Brockton soldier who went missing from Fort Hood
Fort Hood soldier believed dead was happy until recently, family says
Family of Fort Hood Soldier Found Dead Demands Congress Investigate
Fort Hood leaders have ‘blood on their hands’ in death of missing soldier, family attorney says
Missing Fort Hood Soldier Elder Fernandes Reportedly Died by Suicide
Fort Hood soldier Elder Fernandes died by suicide, medical examiner finds
Fort Hood Soldier Elder Fernandes Died From Suicide, Autopsy Reportedly Says
Marchers Demand Answers in Death of Brockton Soldier Who Reported Sexual Assault
‘This is a very bad situation’: Mass. lawmakers paint grim picture of Fort Hood, after death of Sgt. Elder Fernandes
Fort Hood soldier’s family claims Army never investigated his computers; mystery now left behind in devices
Soldier’s family doubts what Army says about his death; Fort Hood’s commander removed from position
Fort Hood soldier was still alive days after he disappeared, raising possibility that suicide could have been prevented, reports show
Family of Fort Hood sergeant questions Army’s effort to find him before he died
Fort Hood: What we know about 12 soldiers missing, slain or killed in accidents since January
Senators Markey and Warren and Rep. Lynch Call for Review of Army Fort Hood to Include Case of Sergeant Elder Fernandes

Austin American-Statesman: Vanessa Guillen’s Death Shines Light on More Tragedies at Fort Hood (July 28, 2020)

“While investigators searched for Spc. Vanessa Guillen, the skeletal remains of Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales were found near Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. His mother, Kim Wedel, wishes investigators looked for her son like they did Guillen. He had been missing for ten months. Once former Fort Hood soldier Jorgina Butler read about the disappearance and death of Guillen, she said it returned her to the night she was sexually by a staff sergeant in 2009. On July 29, 2020, lawmakers plan to hold a congressional hearing in Washington D.C. focused on the review of Fort Hood’s handling of sexual misconduct in the wake of a national outcry for justice for Guillen and her family.” –Austin American-Statesman (July 28, 2020)

Statesman Tweet Fort Hood

Retweet the Austin-American Statesman here.

Fort Hood soldiers say ‘Great Place’ also known for violence, mistreatment (Austin American-Statesman, July 30, 2020)

However, the lack of historical violent crime data from the post has not stopped one military veteran from tracking it on her own.

Jennifer Norris, who served in the U.S. Air Force, researches and writes about Fort Hood crime on her blog, “Military Justice for All.”

Norris, who said she was sexually assaulted by one of her supervisors in the military, switched from only researching sexual assaults to also delving into non-combat deaths of service members in recent years.

Norris set up Google alerts for new stories about deaths in and around military installations, thinking that one day she could prove to Congress that some deaths were related to sexual assault or harassment.

Norris said her data for Fort Hood shows that 138 of its soldiers have died stateside since 2016. Not counting Guillen, three of the deaths this year were determined to be homicides.

Haug said he could not confirm the number Norris provided, adding that the size of Fort Hood, spread across 218,000 acres in southwestern Bell and southeastern Coryell counties in Central Texas, should be taken into account when looking at violent crime.

He said it’s about the size of New York City, with 36,500 soldiers assigned to it with more than 100,000 family members. By comparison, the average Air Force base only has 5,000 personnel assigned to it, he said.

Norris took particular interest in Fort Hood after a pattern emerged while interviewing families of slain soldiers there. Many of those families felt the Army had not properly investigated or searched for their loved ones after their disappearance, she said.

“And the stories are still coming in.”

Read more from the Austin American-Statesman here. (MJFA added links)

Fort Hood Stats

In the last 4 years from January 2016 to present, Fort Hood on average lost 36 soldiers a year. If you divide 36 by 12 months, that’s an average of 3 soldiers a month. We must find out WHY so we can prevent these untimely deaths and save the precious lives and futures of these mostly young soldiers. The average age at time of death is 28 years old and each death has a ripple effect on the families, friends, and communities left behind.  

Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present) | Military Justice for All

Unsolved Cases Fort Hood

Unsolved Homicides: Justin Lewis, Cleveland Lewis, Gregory Wedel-Morales, Shelby Jones, Shaquan Allred, Freddy Delacruz Jr., and Brandon Rosecrans

Seven Unsolved Homicide Cases Affiliated with Fort Hood (January 1, 2016 to Present) | Military Justice for All

Jensen and Holes

Billy Jensen & Paul Holes of The Murder Squad released a must listen to podcast about the issues at Fort Hood. They made a great case for the improvement of sexual harassment, sexual assault, missing persons cases, and murder investigations. They also asked us to sign the petitions for Vanessa Guillen and LaVena Johnson. (Source: Jensen & Holes)

The Murder Squad Podcast: The Murder of Vanessa Guillen and the Unsolved Homicides of Fort Hood (July 6, 2020) | Military Justice for All

Brian Lewis MJIA

“The Military Justice Improvement Act would take the prosecution of sexual assault and other serious crimes, such as murder, out of the chain of command. It would keep those crimes in the military justice system, but put the decision to prosecute them into the hands of actual military prosecutors who are trained to deal with complex legal issues.” –Senator Kirsten Gillbrand (Military Times, July 1, 2019)

Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019) | Military Justice for All

Related Links:
Vanessa Guillen’s death shines light on more tragedies at Fort Hood (Source)
Fort Hood soldiers say ‘Great Place’ also known for violence, mistreatment (Austin American-Statesman, July 30, 2020)
7 soldiers have died in the Fort Hood area this year  | Task and Purpose
Here’s what we know about eight of the soldiers who have died this year at Fort Hood
Air Force TSgt. Jennifer Norris Testified Before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington DC (January 23, 2013)
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present) | Military Justice for All
Washington D.C. Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (December 12, 2017) | Military Justice for All
Unsolved Homicide: Fort Hood Army Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales Reported AWOL; Based on Anonymous Tip, Remains Found in Shallow Grave in Killeen 10 Months Later (August 19, 2019)
Seven Unsolved Homicide Cases Affiliated with Fort Hood (January 1, 2016 to Present)
The Murder Squad Podcast: The Murder of Vanessa Guillen and the Unsolved Homicides of Fort Hood (July 6, 2020)
Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019)
Rep Speier to Chair Hearing on the Military’s #MeToo Moment, Sparked by SPC Vanessa Guillén (July 29, 2020)
LIVE: Hearing on Military Sexual Harassment (Washington D.C.)

MJFA on Social:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/militaryjusticeforall
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/military_crime
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/@military_crime
Email: militaryjusticeforall@gmail.com

Fort Hood Army Spc. Aigner Certaine Found Unresponsive at Off-Post Residence in Killeen, Texas; Autopsy Ordered, Official Cause of Death Unknown (March 26, 2018)

Spc. Aigner Certaine, U.S. Army

Fort Hood Press Center (March 28, 2018):

FORT HOOD, Texas – Fort Hood officials have released the name of a Soldier who was found unresponsive March 26 at an off-post residence in Killeen, Texas.

Spc. Aigner Certaine, 24, was transported to Metroplex Hospital in Killeen where attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.

Certaine, whose home of record is listed as Sanford, Florida, entered active-duty military service in November 2012 as a unit supply specialist and was assigned to 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, Fort Hood, since August 2017.

Certaine’s awards and decorations include three Army Achievement Medals, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.

A photo is not available at the time of this posting. When one becomes available, it will be uploaded to FortHoodPressCenter.com.

Circumstances surrounding this incident are under investigation by the Killeen Police Department.

Aigner Certaine Obituary (Dignity Memorial):

“Love” Bears all things Believes all things Hopes all things Endures all things

1 Corinthians 13:7 

Aigner Certaine was born on June 17, 1993 in Norfolk, VA to Jackie Certaine and Dyral Manley. She departed this life with her daughter Naviah Iris Clarke on Monday, March 26, 2018. 

Aigner Certaine graduated from Crooms Academy High School and joined the United States Army. She completed Army Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, SC and then went on to Fort Lee, VA where she completed her Military Occupation Specialty Training to become a Unit Supply Specialist. 

Aigner Certaine was the kindest person you will ever meet. Her circle was small but her heart was huge. Love is all she ever wanted to give to the world and it’s all she ever wanted in return. 

“Love Conquers All!” 

Report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (November 6, 2020)

Related Links:
Obituary: Aigner Certaine (1993-2018)
Death of a Fort Hood Soldier: Spc. Aigner Certaine
Fort Hood soldier dies off post
Officials identify Fort Hood soldier found unresponsive
Fort Hood: Soldier found unresponsive in off-post residence dies
Autopsy ordered after death of Fort Hood soldier
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present)
Open Letter to House of Representatives in Support of an Independent Investigation of the Murder of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood (July 7, 2020)
Stars and Stripes: Why is Fort Hood the Army’s Most Crime-Ridden Post? (August 21, 2020)
HASC Congressional Investigation of Fort Hood: Research Reveals Pattern of Suspicious Deaths and Cover-up (September 11, 2020)
Report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (November 6, 2020)
Fort Hood’s toxic culture? Red flags raised over mysterious disappearances, sexual assaults
Members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee present their findings and recommendations to change the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID) at a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing (March 16, 2021, 25 News KXXV)

Fort Hood Army Sgt. Duane Shaw III Found Unresponsive in Off-Post Killeen, Texas Home; 12th Reported Fatality in One Month (June 8, 2016)

US Army Seal

Sgt. Duane Shaw III, U.S. Army

Army Sgt. Duane Shaw III, 34, was taken to a hospital in nearby Temple, Texas where he was pronounced dead on June 8, 2016. Sgt. Shaw was found unresponsive at his off-post home in Killeen, Texas. Sgt. Shaw enlisted in the Army in December 2005 as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) specialist. He was assigned to the 8th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood. Sgt. Shaw deployed in support of Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom; he earned the Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, a Combat Action Badge and a Driver and Mechanic Badge with Wheeled Vehicle Bar, and other awards and decorations. Sgt. Shaw’s death was the third death reported in one week by Fort Hood officials. Decorated combat veteran SFC Antino Glass died in a fatal motorcycle crash on June 5th and Spc. Bernardino Guevara, Jr. was found dead with a gunshot wound on June 6th in a parking lot on post. Additionally, this was the 12th death reported in the month of June at Fort Hood. On June 2, 2016, nine service members died in a flood water training accident on post.

Related Links:
SGT Duane Cass Shaw, III | Find A Grave
Soldier re-enlists on Bridge of No Return
Soldier found unresponsive in Killeen identified
Fort Hood IDs soldier found dead in off-post home
Col. Andrew Poznick, One of Too Many Fort Hood
Soldier suicides: Causes studied in attempt to prevent future tragedies
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)