“Former Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and the five civilian members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee unveiled the results of a three-month examination of the command climate and culture at Fort Hood and the surrounding military community on Dec. 8, 2020.”
“The independent review, which was directed by former Secretary McCarthy, arose from the questions and concerns voiced by family members, Congress, and various Hispanic advocacy groups during the investigation into the disappearance and murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillén.”
“The committee examined the command climate and culture at Fort Hood and the surrounding military community to determine whether they reflect the Army’s commitment to safety, respect, inclusiveness, diversity, and freedom from sexual harassment.”
“Committee members Chris Swecker, Jonathan Harmon, Carrie Ricci, Queta Rodriguez and Jack White conducted a two-week fact-finding mission to the Texas base, meeting with unit leaders, Soldiers, members of the Guillén family, local officials, law enforcement and community groups.”
Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), along with co-leads Reps. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), John Carter (R-TX), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (D-TX), Troy Balderson (R-OH), Jason Crow (D-CO), and Will Hurd (R-TX), and 94 additional co-sponsors, introduced the I am Vanessa Guillén Act in honor of the late SPC Vanessa Guillén and the many survivors of military sexual violence who have bravely come forward in the wake of her disappearance and brutal murder. The legislation responds to these resounding calls for change by offering provisions that would revolutionize the military’s response to missing servicemembers and reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault by making sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and moving prosecution decisions of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases out of the chain of command. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate today. This morning, following a meeting with the Guillén family, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a commitment to hold a House floor vote on the I am Vanessa Guillén Act. President Trump previously announced his support for the bill during a White House meeting with the Guillén family.
SPC Guillén’s disappearance and brutal murder became the catalyst for long overdue change when her family refused to let her case be neglected by Army leadership at Fort Hood. The Guillén family supports the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, and Chair Speier is also leading a congressional delegation this weekend to Fort Hood to further investigate matters at the base and speak with servicemembers at all levels about their experiences and how best to accelerate the cultural change that is so urgently needed.
Specifically, the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act would:
-Move prosecution decisions on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases outside of the chain of command to an Office of the Chief Prosecutor within each military service;
-Create a standalone military offense for sexual harassment;
-Establish trained sexual harassment investigators who are outside of the chain of command of the complainant and the accused;
-Create a confidential reporting process for sexual harassment that is integrated with DoD’s Catch a Serial Offender database;
-Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the military’s procedures for finding missing servicemembers and compare with procedures used by civilian law enforcement and best practices;
-Require both DoD and GAO to conduct separate evaluations of the military services’ Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) programs; and
-Establish a process by which servicemembers can make claims for negligence and seek compensatory damages against DoD in the case of sexual assault or sexual harassment.
“Military leadership has repeatedly failed to reduce sexual harassment, sexual assault, and violent crime at Fort Hood, one of the worst sites for attacks according to Army officials, and throughout the armed forces,” Chair Speier said. “The endless cycle of harassment, assault, and retaliation for those who speak out reveals the deep roots of a toxic culture we must eradicate so that survivors are taken seriously and treated with respect, and assailants are held accountable. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Actwould do this by providing survivors independent investigations for both sexual harassment and sexual assault reports and independent charging decisions for courts-martial. It would also make sexual harassment a criminal offense in the military, helping get to the core of an issue that too often leads to violence and destroys careers, and lives. The Guillén family and legions of former and current servicemembers are demanding bold change. Congress must seize this moment and deliver on that demand for change by passing the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act.”
“The issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue – it’s an American issue,” Congressman Mullin said. “We must strengthen the military’s ability to protect its most important resource, which is the people who willingly sign-up to protect all Americans. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act will also encourage survivors to come forward to report sexual assaults and sexual harassment and to provide justice. This is about protecting our men and women in uniform and I will keep fighting so no family has to go through what the Guillén family has gone through.”
“From the moment I started working with the Guillén family in May, I made it clear I would not stop until we found Vanessa and got justice in her name,” Congresswoman Garcia said. “The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act of 2020 is a transformative and comprehensive bill that will help save lives and give our soldiers an avenue to report sexual assault and harassment without fear – a lasting legacy in honor of Vanessa. I want the Guillén family to know that Congress, the Houston region, and the entire world stands with you and we won’t stop until we get justice for Vanessa.”
“First and foremost, my heart goes out to the Guillén family, no one should ever have to experience the pain they’ve experienced,” Congressman Carter said. “The men and women that selflessly serve our nation deserve to feel safe to report misconduct and feel confident that their issues will be fairly handled. There is absolutely no place for sexual misconduct in the United States military and we must take these steps to ensure that accountability is realized.”
“The unspeakable tragedy of Specialist Vanessa Guillén’s murder has shed new light and revealed to the American public the epidemic of unchecked sexual harassment and assault that too many service members have suffered,” Congresswoman Escobar said. “Specialist Guillén – and all servicemembers – deserve respect and justice, and it’s our obligation to protect those who bravely put their lives on the line for our country. We can’t continue the same approaches that have failed victims. Congress must respond to this moment of reckoning with new solutions to tackle this epidemic and pass the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act.”
“The tragedy that befell PFC Vanessa Guillén was horrific and reflects a growing problem in our Armed Forces. Our military members should never fear harassment or violence while defending our nation,” Congressman Olson said. “As a Navy veteran, I’m proud to support the I am Vanessa Guillen Act, which is an important step towards getting justice for PFC Guillén and other service members like her. It ensures there is a stand-alone military offense for sexual harassment and requires the GAO to review how our military processes missing service members in cases of suspected foul play compared to civilian law enforcement. By working together and demanding accountability, we can prevent the next tragedy. Our military must maintain higher standards and we will not be silent on this issue.”
“Year after year, we see an increase in reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our military and the same statements from military leadership about how unacceptable they are. It’s far past time we take bold action to bring accountability to the system and give survivors support,” Congressman Cisneros said. “In the memory of Specialist Vanessa Guillén, Republicans and Democrats are coming together to make legislative fixes to protect our men and women in uniform. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the bipartisan I am Vanessa Guillén Act to provide the necessary support and resources for survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our military. Our servicemembers and military families deserve to have the peace of mind that they’ll be heard and treated with dignity and respect.”
“Ohio is home to thousands of active duty servicemembers who risk their lives for our nation, and in return, it’s our country’s obligation to ensure their safety,” Congressman Balderson said. “In honor of Vanessa Guillén, this legislation will take important steps to ensure survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our military can tell their stories without retribution and seek the justice they deserve.”
“As a soldier, I remember going to basic training to learn everything from marksmanship to the chain of command. The military is supposed to train new recruits on the essential tasks of the job, but we still don’t do nearly enough to address sexual assault in the ranks. We need to make sure we are creating a system and culture of accountability in the military to protect our women and men in uniform. For too long, sexual assault and violence has gone unaddressed,” Congressman Crow said. “The military failed Vanessa Guillén but I refuse to let Congress fail her or her family. It is Congress that decides what kind of military we have and now it is Congress’ responsibility to step up and pass the I AM Vanessa Guillén to protect our women and men in uniform.”
“We must work to ensure what happened to Vanessa Guillén never happens again,” Congressman Hurd said.“The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act of 2020 will protect soldiers like Vanessa by ensuring independent investigations occur in assault and harassment cases. This will better safeguard our soldiers from retaliation and help prevent these atrocious acts from ever happening in the first place.”
“Vanessa Guillén’s story makes painfully clear the need for a better response to sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military,” Senator Hirono said. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act knocks down barriers to reporting sexual harassment and sexual assault and directly addresses the culture that protects the perpetrators of these crimes. It’s time to make a system that respects and protects survivors.”
The I Am Vanessa Guillén Actwill fundamentally reform reporting and investigation of sexual harassment in the military and transform prosecution of sexual harassment and assault by empowering an independent prosecutor, within each military service, to bring charges. The bill will also allow servicemembers who were sexually harassed or sexually assaulted to pursue monetary claims against DoD and will also require a comprehensive GAO review of the military’s sexual harassment and assault prevention and response programs, as well as the military’s procedures for responding to missing servicemembers.
A fact sheet and the text of the bill are attached to this press release.
“In the last five years, 165 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood have died, according to the Fort Hood Public Affairs Office, which regularly released information on soldiers’ death until a 2018 decision to stop the practice. The post was an outlier in this level of transparency.
In those years, seven soldiers died by homicide, while six died in a combat zone. The deaths of 70 soldiers were ruled suicides, and on- and off-base accidents resulted in the deaths of 60 soldiers.”
“Air Force veteran Jennifer Norris believes Fort Hood’s current situation has been years in the making.
For the past decade, Norris, a trained social worker with a master’s degree in public policy, has been tracking crimes committed by and against service members and advocating for reform. She posts her research on her website, Military Justice for All.
She first focused her research on several large military bases, but after noticing a trend of Fort Hood deaths, Norris narrowed her efforts to the Texas post.
‘I didn’t set up to go after Fort Hood at all. It’s a compilation of systematic issues,’ she said.
At the end of 2017, Norris used her own money to travel from her home in Maine to Washington to meet with lawmakers. By the time she got home, Norris said she thought everyone had moved on without intending to address the problems.
‘The other bases are nothing like Fort Hood is right now,’ she said. ‘I think the anomaly with Fort Hood is that its isolated and that it’s such an economic powerhouse in the community that it’s in everybody’s best interest to protect it so they can protect themselves.’”
“Lavena Johnson was a smart, witty woman, born and raised in Missouri. Her senior year of high school she decided she would join the Army in an effort to not burden her parents with out of state tuition for college. Although Dr. Johnson (Lavena’s dad), begged her not to join the Army – she did so anyway. She thought the Army was a good deal – you serve your country a few years and then you get 4 years of college paid! Recruiters promised her she would likely not deploy, even though in 2004 there was an uptick in deployed troops.”
Listen to Ep 40: Did Lavena Johnson commit suicide? on the Military Murder Podcasthere.
“In a letter to a U.S. senator in Arizona, [Thae] Ohu — a 26-year-old administrative specialist with the Marine Corps Intelligence Schools aboard Dam Neck Naval Base — said she’d been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon following a psychological break in April. In a separate letter, her boyfriend said he was the victim of the incident and that he believed the case should be dropped.”
“Ohu was seeking medical retirement earlier this year to get help for PTSD, but the Marines were seeking administrative separation, according to a memo from her defense attorney. That would cause her to lose medical benefits, the lawyer said.”
American Grit: “Thae is a proud Marine and courageous survivor of military sexual assault. For five years she has struggled with being a victim of sexual assault. Our family is devastated that the Marine Corps has chosen to place Thae in a military prison instead of giving her the medical treatment she so desperately needs. We are asking the Marine Corps simply to do the right thing: to immediately release Thae from jail, stop the unjust prosecution against her, and provide her with adequate mental health services. What she needs, and deserves, is treatment and support from a loving community of family and friends. We hope that the Marine Corps will honor its promise to protect victims of military sexual assault, like Thae, by standing by her when it matters the most. Questions related to the case should be directed to Thae’s civilian attorney, Mr. Gerald Healy, at email@example.com.”
“In this episode, Billy and Paul will delve into the eight cases of unsolved homicides and unknown causes of death of soldiers from the base. And with the help of Murder Squad listeners, they take a closer look at how the US Army investigates sexual assault, sexual harassment and missing persons amidst their ranks—including the cases of Vanessa Guillen and LaVena Johnson.”
Listen to Episode 57: The Murder of Vanessa Guillen and the Unsolved Homicides of Fort Hood from The Murder Squad Podcasthere.
“Nearly two dozen major provisions offered by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, were adopted during consideration of the annual defense policy bill by the Armed Services Committee this week.”
Authorize a System of Military Court Protective Orders: Allowing military judges and magistrates to issue court protective orders compliant with the Violence Against Women Act. The new judicial orders provide better protection and enforceability for servicemembers and family members experiencing intimate partner violence.
Initiate a Sexual Assault Prosecution Pilot Program at the Military Service Academies: A 4-year test of a new Chief Prosecutor would demonstrate whether assigning charging decisions for sexual assault and other special victims’ crimes to an independent expert outside of the chain of command would increase the willingness of survivors to report and the ability of the military justice system to hold perpetrators accountable.
Establish a Special Inspector General for Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Armed Forces: A dedicated office to investigate underrepresentation of people of color among military officers and high-ranking enlisted servicemembers, racial disparities within the military justice system, and white supremacy among servicemembers.
Increase Representation of Women and People of Color in the Armed Services: The military would be required to establish specific goals to increase recruiting, accessions, and promotion of minorities and women, and to report to Congress on a plan to achieve these goals and their progress.
Address Bias by Anonymizing Candidates Before Military Promotion Boards: Redact all personally identifiable information, such as names and photographs, of servicemembers before promotion boards to remove the potential for conscious or unconscious bias.
Make Violent Extremism a Military Crime: A new article within the Uniform Code of Military Justice would bring greater consequences to servicemembers who perpetrate, plan, threaten, or conspire to commit violent acts with intent to intimidate or coerce a person or class of people, or the intent to impact government action or policy.
Track White Supremacy among Servicemembers: The military services would be required to improve tracking of white-supremacist and other extremist activity by servicemembers.
Establish a Military-Civilian Task Force on Domestic Violence: The task force would report to Congress with findings and recommendations to address intimate partner violence among servicemembers and military families, and DoD would be required to collect data on the prevalence of intimate partner violence.
Establish a Military-wide Safe-to-Report Policy: Clarify that servicemembers may report sexual assault without fear of being disciplined for related minor collateral misconduct such as drinking in the barracks.
Improve Coordination for Survivors of Sexual Trauma: Ensure a warm handoff for survivors when relocating between stations within the military or when separating from the military and transferring from service providers within DoD to resources within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Improve Oversight of Military Sexual Assault Investigations: Require DoD toreport to Congress all military sexual assault investigations that remain open more than 6 months along with the reasons for the delay.
Improve Oversight of Next Generation Body Armor: Require DoD to report on barriers to fielding next generation body armor that will provide better, gender-specific protection for military servicemembers.
Expand Child Care Options for Military Families: Address waiting lists, establish competitive pay for providers in high-cost areas, provide housing priority for military spouses that operate Family Care Centers, and expand the Financial Assistance Program to pay for in-home child care, such as by a nanny or au pair. Additionally, it requires 24-hour child care be provided on bases where servicemembers are required to work night shifts.
Improve Oversight of the Next Generation Interceptor Missile Defense Program: Require an independent cost estimate and two successful flight tests before buying.
Transparency of Contractor Ownership: Expand reporting requirements to identify the beneficial owner of contractors.
Strengthen Whistleblower Protections: Clarify that nondisclosure agreements do not prevent employees of government contractors and subcontractors from filing a whistleblower complaint.
Examine Equal Employment Opportunity: Require the Department of Defense to report on ways to improve the EEO process for DoD civilians.
Enact the Elijah Cummings Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination Act: Strengthen EEO protections and increase accountability for federal employees who are found to be responsible for discrimination.
Authorize Incentive Pay for Programming Proficiency: Develop a system to track coding language aptitude and proficiency by military servicemembers and DoD civilians and offer financial incentives for needed programming skills.
Investigate Suicide at Remote Military Installations: Require a Comptroller General report covering unique challenges of preventing suicide by military servicemembers and military family members at remote bases outside of the contiguous United States.
Examine Access to Contraception and Family Planning Education. Require DoD to issue a report on barriers experienced by servicemembers in accessing contraception and the status of implementation of new DoD requirements on reproductive health care, such as ensuring access to contraception for the full length of deployment.
“U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and I recently announced that we will offer the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act as an amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. The Military Justice Improvement Act would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision over whether to prosecute them to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors.
Despite years of Congressional reforms, thousands of service members are raped and sexually assaulted every year. In many of those cases, the assailant is someone in the survivor’s own chain of command. Only a small fraction of the perpetrators are ever held accountable for their violent crimes. Last year, the Department of Defense announced a record number of sexual assaults reported by or against service members, and yet, less than 10 percent of cases considered for command action ever proceeded to trial. Worse yet, despite repeated efforts to stamp out the scourge of retaliation against military sexual assault survivors, the most recent Pentagon survey found that 64 percent of survivors say they have experienced some form of retaliation for reporting the crime. That figure is statistically unchanged from 2016.”
Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is a military lawyer defending two U.S. Marines charged with killing a fellow Marine at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Although Kaffee is known for seeking plea bargains, a fellow lawyer, Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore), convinces him that the accused marines were most likely carrying out an order from a commanding officer. Kaffee takes a risk by calling Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) to the stand in an effort to uncover the conspiracy. -A Few Good Men, Sony Pictures Entertainment (December 9, 1992)
New Army recruit Barry Winchell is assigned to a base in Tennessee. One night out to a local bar hosting a drag show. Calpernia Addams an in-transition transsexual drag queen, fascinates Barry, and they strike up a relationship. -Soldier’s Girl, Showtime (January 20, 2003)
“In the Valley of Elah” tells the story of a war veteran (Tommy Lee Jones), his wife (Susan Sarandon) and the search for their son, a soldier who recently returned from Iraq but has mysteriously gone missing, and the police detective (Charlize Theron) who helps in the investigation. -Warner Bros. (September 14, 2007)
Pat Tillman never thought of himself as a hero. His choice to leave a multimillion-dollar football contract and join the military wasn’t done for any reason other than he felt it was the right thing to do. The fact that the military manipulated his tragic death in the line of duty into a propaganda tool is unfathomable and thoroughly explored in Amir Bar-Lev’s riveting and enraging documentary. -The Tillman Story (August 20, 2010)
Since the Iraq War began, soldier arrests in the city of Colorado Springs have tripled. FRONTLINE tells the dark tale of the men of 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st battalion of the 506th infantry, and how the war followed them home. It is a story of heroism, grief, vicious combat, depression, drugs, alcohol and brutal murder; an investigation into the Army’s mental health services; and a powerful portrait of what multiple tours and post-traumatic stress are doing to a generation of young American soldiers. –The Wounded Platoon (May 18, 2010)
U.S. Army Ranger John Needham, who was awarded two purple hearts and three medals for heroism, wrote to military authorities in 2007 reporting war crimes that he witnessed being committed by his own command and fellow soldiers in Al Doura, Iraq. His charges were supported by atrocity photos which, in the public interest, are now released in this video. John paid a terrible price for his opposition to these acts. His story is tragic. –On the Dark Side in Al Doura (2011)
The Invisible War is a groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of our country’s most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within our US military. Today, a female soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire with the number of assaults in the last decade alone in the hundreds of thousands. -The Invisible War (June 22, 2012)
Military Sexual Trauma or M.S.T. has been a fixture in the military for as long as human war has existed, and is still quite prevalent even in today’s modern military. This feature length documentary uncovers the origins and offers solutions to M.S.T. -Women of War Documentary (February 4, 2013)
“The Frozen Ground” is inspired by the incredible true story that follows Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) as he sets out to end the murderous rampage of Robert Hansen (John Cusack), a serial killer who has gone unnoticed for 13 years. As the bodies of street girls start to pile up in Anchorage, fear strikes a chord with the public. -The Frozen Ground (August 23, 2013)
Ninety-four US military women in the military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). ‘The Silent Truth’ tells the story of one of these women, PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson, who was found dead on Balad Air Force Base in Iraq. The army claimed she shot herself with her own M16 rifle, but forensic evidence, obtained by the Johnson family through the Freedom of Information Act, brings the army’s findings into question. The Army refuses to re-open LaVena Johnson’s case, leaving the family in limbo. ‘The Silent Truth’ follows the Johnson’s pursuit of justice and truth for their daughter. -The Silent Truth Documentary (July 1, 2014)
The Kill Team looks at the devastating moral tensions that tear at soldiers’ psyches through the lens of one highly personal and emotional story. Private Adam Winfield was a 21-year-old soldier in Afghanistan when he attempted with the help of his father to alert the military to heinous war crimes his platoon was committing. But Winfield’s pleas went unheeded. Left on his own and with threats to his life, Private Winfield was himself drawn into the moral abyss, forced to make a split-second decision that would change his life forever. -The Kill Team, (July 25, 2014)
Sworn to protect us from every enemy, foreign and domestic, and every day the majority of soldiers do just that ! yet some units are being compromised and turn into street gangs. An FBI report recently showed an increased gang activity within US soldiers. -Gangs in the U.S. Army Documentary (2017)
When a young US soldier in Afghanistan witnesses other recruits killing civilians under the direction of a sadistic sergeant, he begins to fear that the men he’s serving with might be the ones to kill him. -The Kill Team (October 25, 2019)
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and executive producers Paul Pawlowski and David Check tell the story of First Lieutenant Clint Lorance. Watch the Official Trailer for the upcoming STARZ Original Docuseries, Leavenworth, premiering October 20 on the STARZ App. (August 28, 2019)
Andrew Renzi sheds light on the lives of three of the estimated thousands of immigrants who volunteer for service in the American military, yet find themselves deported from the US once their tours of duty are over. -Ready for War, Showtime (November 22, 2019)
When Lea Porter goes missing in Prison Valley her family turn detective to try and find her. Their investigation leads to a shocking discovery – the killer’s true identity. As the killer evades arrest, Lea’s brother devises a plan to make him confess. -Killer Confession, Valley of the Damned (S1,E3)
Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.