Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel Hearings: Sexual Assault in the Military (March 24, 2021)

“Sexual assault victims and victims’ advocates testified on the need for Congress to address prevention and handling of such cases in the military. The Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel convened the hearing and was considering various proposals, including making changes to the military justice system, to address how assault cases are prosecuted.”Sexual Assault in the Military | CSPAN.org (March 24, 2021)

Video:

Senate armed services committee holds hearing on sexual assault in the military
Senator Elizabeth Warren on Sexual Assault in the Military
Sen. Gillibrand: sexual assault in military an ‘epidemic’ that’s getting worse
How personal experience is guiding this military corp’s attempt to combat sexual assault
Sen. Gillibrand Pushes For Sexual Assault Reform In Military

Witness Testimony of Ms. Amy Braley Franck, Founder, Never Alone:

Download Testimony here.

Chairman Gillibrand, Ranking Member Tillis, and Members of the Committee, I thank you for this opportunity.  

My name is Amy Braley Franck I have been working with victims of sexual violence since 2006.  Currently employed as Victims’ Advocate at 416th Theater Engineer Command.  

I am currently being retaliated against for reporting Command for illegally concealing and failing to report 3 violent Sexual Assaults to Law Enforcement.  

I have been on a paid suspension since 20 November 2019 the day after I emailed LTG Charles Luckey the evidence.  I emailed the same evidence to the Chief of Staff of the Army, GEN James McConville on 22 November 2019.  I also sent this evidence to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Mark Milley and DOD SAPRO Admiral Burkhart and Nate Galbreath.  This evidence mirrors what was documented in the Ft. Hood Report. 

Sexual assaults and violent rapes not reported to CID or Law Enforcement, there was retaliation against victims and reporters of crimes, no Case Management Group or attendance for over a year.  

I have been left in this “suspension” after protecting victims and reporting command for over 16 months completely ostracized and isolated in retaliation.   

This evidence was reported to the Office of Special Counsel and the DOD IG  

The Army’s Internal 15-6 process has impeded justice for my victims and myself.  This internal investigative process does not allow for transparency and should be abolished. 

17-year-old Private in Granite City, Illinois reserve center was raped resulting in broken bones.  She had to stand next to her assailant in formation.  The Command’s illegal 15-6 investigation was documented in a Memorandum for Record. 

For over a year no one assisted her until I was notified in June 2019 but after my suspension, that ended. 

Advocates are continually blocked by layers of Command from protecting their victims.  When Commanders ignore the advice of Advocates, we have no recourse.  There are no consequences for Commanders when they violate law.      

Documented by the number of murders and murders by suicide.  Nicole Burnham’s, Brigade Commander Col John Mountford left Nicole in the same barracks at Camp Casey with her offenders raped and later gang raped tortured for over 82 days before her Transfer was executed.  Nicole is dead. 

Staff Sgt. Morgan Robinson’s first offender is still serving in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.  Staff Sgt. Robinson’s report of 9 Special Forces Soldiers placing a covering over her head, dragging her out of a tent and gang-raping her. Never investigated.  

An outstanding Soldier committed Suicide; she was not protected.  

Lavena Johnson’s brutal murder has never been investigated. The Army still states that it was a suicide.  

16 years later the toxic culture again exposed with the murder of Vanessa Guillen.  

This is not isolated to Fort Hood, documented across all components of the Military.   

Ft. Campbell April 2020 another victim of a gang rape was arrested illegally by CID and denied counsel. 

MG Shadley retired alerted MG Donna Martin.  Nothing was done. 

Never Alone helped Soldier with Suicidal Ideations.  She is still fighting to clear her record.     

Fort Bliss, 31 December 2020 Pfc. Asia Graham was found dead. Asia’s offender is identified as an accused serial rapist.   Walking free no pre-trial confinement.  He continued to live in the same barracks on the same floor with Asia and was moved into Headquarters Company with Asia until her untimely death. 

Asia’s leadership failed to protect her after she reported her rape in February 2020 not June.  

PVT Richard Halliday is still missing from Ft. Bliss. 

When victims and victim advocates speak out about the broken process and illegal actions of commanders.  We face severe retaliation.  

All felony crimes murder, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence do not belong within the chain of Command’s control to investigate or prosecute.   

Kamisha Block’s death deemed friendly fire, she was murdered due to Domestic Abuse. 

The Abuse of Power is real. 

In Italy the Provost Marshal,LTC Michae Parsons Army Garrison filed an espionage charge in Italian Court against an Army Spouse, Michela Morellato.  Retaliation for exposing Gen Harrington resulting in his firing and demotion.  This retaliation was reported to GEN Milley and IG.  Nothing was done.    

Illegal internal 15-6 process.  Ability to redact investigations. None of us will ever know the truth or get justice.   

Just this week my own sexual assault by a 2-star general still under investigation was improperly released to be weaponized against another sexual assault advocate during an unrelated court martial. The military has no checks and balances.    

I was raised in the military and a proud mother of a Veteran.  I will not stop until our Military is a safe.  “Sexual misconduct is an abuse of power and force protection issue.  The inability of commanders to execute essential command functions of “protection” is a significant threat to the United States Military’s ability to protect this great Nation.”  Soldiers should Never be Alone.

Other Witnesses:
Ms. Amy Marsh, Military Spouse
Mr. Quinton McNair, Former SARC/SHARP Victim Advocate
Ms. Brenda S. Farrell, Director, Defense Capabilities And Management, GAO
Mr. Eugene R. Fidell, Senior Research Scholar, Yale Law School Adjunct Professor Of Law, New York University Law School
Colonel Don M. Christensen, USAF (Ret.), President, Protect Our Defenders
Colonel Lawrence J. Morris, USA Ret. (No electronic testimony submitted)

Honoring the Fallen:

Related Links:
Sexual Assault in the Military | C-SPAN.org
SASC Sexual Assault in the Military Hearings Press Release (March 24, 2021) 
Senate armed services committee holds hearing on sexual assault in the military
Senate panel holds hearing on sexual assault in the military | FULL HEARING
Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on sexual assault in the military
How personal experience is guiding this military corp’s attempt to combat sexual assault
Transcript for Committee on Armed Services to Receive Testimony on Sexual Assault in the Military
Sen. Gillibrand: sexual assault in military an ‘epidemic’ that’s getting worse
Gillibrand renews push for military sexual assault reform
Gillibrand launches new push to punish sexual predators in the military
Pentagon leaders have opposed plans overhauling the military system for trying sexual assault for years. Has the time come for change?
‘Just heartbreaking’: Sen. Gillibrand pushes for sexual assault reform in military
Editorial — Military injustice: Independent prosecutors should handle sexual assault cases
Army Pvt. Nicole Burnham Found Unresponsive in Fort Carson Barracks; Death Ruled Suicide After Sexual Assault, Retaliation & a Three Month Expedited Transfer Delay (January 26, 2018)
“They took her soul”: Army did “nothing” for soldier who reported sexual assault, mom says
Speier, Mullin Introduce Bipartisan ‘I Am Vanessa Guillén Act’ to Transform the Military’s Response to Sexual Violence & Missing Servicemembers (September 16, 2020)
Fort Campbell Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson Died of Non Combat Related Injuries in Iraq; Death Ruled Suicide But Independent Investigation Revealed Rape and Murder (July 19, 2005)
Report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (November 6, 2020)
New sexual assault accusations after soldier’s death at Fort Bliss; Army opens investigation
Search Continues for Fort Bliss Soldier Reported Missing Over 200 Days
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)
Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019)
Find Richard Halliday | Facebook

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

Fort Hood Independent Review:

“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.”

“The 136-page Report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee offers findings and recommendations intended to benefit Fort Hood and the entire Army. In response, the former Secretary McCarthy has taken significant measures to hold leaders accountable at Fort Hood, instituted a new policy on missing Soldiers and formed the People First Task Force to map out a plan to tackle issues identified in the report.”

Read more here.

Secretary of the Army McCarthy addresses the report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee
MLP Hearing: “Military Criminal Investigative Organization Reform Recommendations

Related Links:
Important @Military_Crime Links (Linktree)
Trends in Active-Duty Military Deaths Since 2006
Fort Hood Independent Review (Official Army website)
Research Reveals Pattern of Suspicious Deaths & Cover-up at Fort Hood (Sep. 11, 2020)
Report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (November 6, 2020)
Report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (November 6, 2020)
15 Things Every American Should Know About the Fort Hood Report
MLP Hearing: “Military Criminal Investigative Organization Reform Recommendations
Fort Hood’s toxic culture? Red flags raised over mysterious disappearances, sexual assaults
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (Jan. 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)
1st AD, Fort Bliss change command: Maj. Gen. Pat White takes ‘Old Ironsides’ helm
Never Forgotten: The Fort Hood Fallen (2016)

Speier, Mullin Introduce Bipartisan ‘I Am Vanessa Guillén Act’ to Transform the Military’s Response to Sexual Violence & Missing Servicemembers (September 16, 2020)

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE, SENATORS, AND THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE & HOUSE ARMED SERVICE COMMITTEE TO EXPRESS YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE I AM VANESSA GUILLEN BILL.

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 Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (December 12, 2017)

HASC Congressional Investigation of Fort Hood: Research Reveals Pattern of Suspicious Deaths and Cover-up (September 11, 2020)

***********************************************************

Speier, Mullin Introduce Bipartisan I Am Vanessa Guillén Act to Transform the Military’s Response to Sexual Violence and Missing Servicemembers

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 Act would 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 Act will 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.

Introduction of I Am Vanessa Guillen Act:

This is a hearing by the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, looking into sexual harassment allegations and how they’re responded to. It’s also looking into Fort Hood’s sexual assault and response program. This hearing is taking place a day before Vanessa Guillen’s family meets with President Trump and legislation is introduced. -KHOU 11 (July 29, 2020)
Rep. Speier, family of murdered soldier Vanessa Guillen on legislation in her honor -PBS News Hour (September 16, 2020)

Related Files:
Fact Sheet – I am Vanessa Guillen Act Press Fact Sheet.pdf 
2020-09-15 I Am Vanessa Guillen Bill Text.pdf

In the News:

“The IamVanessaGuillen Bill is a BiPartisan Bill. It is NOT a political issue, it’s a human rights issue,” Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam wrote. -KCEN News (September 16, 2020)
Speaker Pelosi to reportedly bring ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ Act to U.S. House floor for vote -25 News KXXV (September 16, 2020)
Vanessa Guillén’s family members speak during a news conference about the “I Am Vanessa Guillén Act,” in honor of the late U.S. Army Specialist and survivors of military sexual violence. -KXAN (September 16, 2020)
The ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ bill was presented to Congress Wednesday, but what does it mean for the future of military service members facing sexual harassment. -KHOU 11 (September 16, 2020)

Related Links:
Hearing: “The Military’s #MeToo Moment”
Rep. Speier, family of murdered soldier Vanessa Guillen on legislation in her honor
Lawmakers introduce the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act
Watch Live | #IAmVanessaGuillen Bill introduced in D.C.
Bill honoring Vanessa Guillen introduced in Washington D.C. Wednesday
Speaker Pelosi to reportedly bring ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ Act to U.S. House floor for vote
Vanessa Guillén’s family members speak about the “I Am Vanessa Guillén Act”
What is the ‘I am Vanessa Guillen’ bill?

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

Stars and Stripes: Why is Fort Hood the Army’s Most Crime-Ridden Post? (August 21, 2020)

#IAmVanessaGuillen

by Rose Thayer

Keeping Track

“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.”

(Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present) *we missed close to 25 deaths because Fort Hood stopped issuing press releases for the death of soldiers in early 2018)

Asking for a Solution

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.’”

(Washington D.C. Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of the Armed Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (December 12, 2017))

Read more here: Why is Fort Hood the Army’s most crime-ridden post?

Related Links:
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)
Air Force TSgt. Jennifer Norris Testified Before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington DC (January 23, 2013)
Gillibrand: The Military Justice Improvement Act Would Give Service Members a Justice System That Works (July 1, 2019)
Rep. Seth Moulton Introduces The Brandon Act to Change DoD Mental Health Policy, Pay Tribute to Fallen Navy Sailor Brandon Caserta (June 25, 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)
Austin American-Statesman: Vanessa Guillen’s Death Shines Light on More Tragedies at Fort Hood (July 28, 2020)

Military Murder Podcast Featured the Suspicious Death of Fort Campbell Army Pfc. Lavena Johnson in Balad, Iraq (July 27, 2020)

“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 Podcast here.

Related Links:
Ep40: Did Lavena Johnson commit suicide? | Military Murder Podcast
Non Combat Deaths of Female Service Members in the U.S. Military (Iraq)
Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson Died of Non Combat Related Injuries in Iraq; Death Ruled Suicide But Independent Investigation Revealed Rape & Murder (July 19, 2005)
‘The Silent Truth’ Documentary: The Rape, Murder & Military Cover-Up of Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson in Iraq (July 1, 2014)
The Generation Why Podcast Featured the Suspicious Death of Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson in Balad, Iraq: Was It Suicide or Murder? (November 19, 2017)
The Strange & Unexplained: ‘The Biggest Suspicious Unsolved Military Mysteries’ (August 15, 2018)
Crime Junkie Podcast Featured the Suspicious Deaths of LaVena Johnson & Tina Priest in ‘Conspiracy: Women in the US Military’ (October 22, 2018)
Seven Intriguing True Crime Podcasts Spotlighting Active Duty Military Suicide, Missing, and Murder Cases
15 Active Duty Cases That Beg for Prevention Efforts, Military Justice Reform, and the End of the Feres Doctrine
15 Movies & Documentaries That Expose the Broken Military Justice System

My Last Breath: In Loving Memory of My Sister Army Reservist SSG Virginia Caballero, Our Fallen Servicemembers, and Our Gold Star Families

Virginia Caballero

SSG Virginia Caballero, U.S. Army Reserve

Army Reservist SSG Virginia Caballero Died on Plane Enroute in US After Deployment in Kuwait, Family Received Conflicting Accounts of Cause of Death (September 13, 2014)

My Last Breath by Suzie Caballero Turner, Gold Star Family

Ft. Hood tried to cover up 2 other deaths,
When Greg and Vanessa took their last breath.
Lying to the family, wouldn’t tell them the truth,
Hoping no one would ask, their story runs smooth…

But there is a group, Gold Star Families their name,
Who knew much better, Ft. Hood is the blame.

But this is much bigger than sexual assualt you see,
This is about soldiers killing him, them, and me,
About Heroes who once fought for us,
But when one dies, we can’t make a fuss.

Don’t get me wrong, sexual assault is a crime,
And those who commit it, better do the time,
But this situation is bigger you see…
It’s about lies told when they killed me.

Told my family I put a gun to my head,
But a soldier in arms is why I am dead,
My family knows better, you’re telling a lie,
They know for a fact, that’s not how I’d die.

A medical death, how quickly you lied,
Another soldier is the reason that I died,
His corruptive lifestyle, I didn’t agree,
So he thought he’d go on and silence me.

I’m only a Sgt, take orders from command,
What they tell me to do is out of my hands,
The mission they gave me, sounds dangerous to me,
Tried to talk to command, but they just disagree.
Now the mission’s over, just like it played in my head…
So they try to blame me, because we all end up dead…

It took them a month to find me and my car,
They didn’t realize that they took this too far,
Sending my phone signals to my home state,
Hoping my family will just take the bait,
While they decide what they’re going to say
About what happened to me when i died that day.

Suicide is what you tell my wife…
Multiple stab wounds from somebody’s knife
She knows me better, knows you’re telling a lie
She knows this isn’t the way I would die…

Commander and others like treating me bad,
So I finally stood up, only got them mad,
So now I am unresponsive, face down on my bed,
Another soldier in arms is why I am dead…

Healthy as ever, pass each PT test,
Taking care of me, doing my best,
All of a sudden, I fell on the floor,
All they tell my family, “She’s not breathing any more.”
Lie to my family, not medical death,
But a coward soldier who took my last breath.

These are just a few of the hundreds of deaths,
When our own fellow soldier took us from our last breath,
It wasn’t at war, not by the other country,
But one of our own who ended my life for me.

Higher command tries to diffuse the crime,
By making up a story and not doing the time.
Lying to the family, saying stories untrue,
Making families think there’s nothing they can do.

This needs to stop, too many have died!
Too many families to whom they’ve lied!
Now it’s time to make things right!
By telling the truth and letting us fight,
Fight for our loved ones who can no longer speak,
Because the truth is all we seek!

To demand the truth about their death,
And who made them take their last breath!
They deserve respect, justice, and closure too,
So quit being a coward and do what you’re supposed to do,
Start acting like the soldier you signed up to be
So families again, can believe in humanity!

Don’t get me wrong, we can’t blame them all,
We can’t expect all of Ft. Hood to fall,
For all the corrupt cowards who led a hero to death,
And watched him as he took his final breath.

This isn’t just happening on Ft. Hood you see,
This is happening within all military,
Some of these deaths are Marines, and Navy too,
Every military branch has got quite a few…

But just like the corrupt ones, not all of them are bad…
There are also some good ones who the corrupt ones make mad..

There are many true soldiers still left you see,
Who are doing what’s right, fighting for him, her, and me,
So don’t disrespect a true soldier in any way…
Because of what corruption may have played out today.
So weed out the cowards and take them away,
Throw them in a prison for taking our loved ones that day…

Family Wants Military to Help Marine Corporal Thae Ohu Cope with a Sex Assault, Instead She’s in the Navy Consolidated Brig in Virginia (July 13, 2020)

Thae Ohu USMC

Cpl. Thae Ohu, U.S. Marine Corps

Family wants military to help a Marine cope with a sex assault. Instead, she’s in a Chesapeake brig. (The Virginian-Pilot, July 13, 2020)

“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.”

Petition: Sexual Assault, Retaliation, Injustice – http://chng.it/TDSqBJf7Pz

White House Petition: Release Marine Corporal & Military Sexual Assault Survivor Thae Ohu from Brig; Give Her Treatment & Justice She Deserves – https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/release-marine-corporal-military-sexual-assault-survivor-thae-ohu-brig-give-her-treatment-justice-she-deserves

Facebook: Justice for Thae Ohu – http://www.facebook.com/justiceforthae

IG: @justiceforthaeohu

GoFundMe: Help Thae Ohu – https://www.gofundme.com/f/bpky2-help-thae-ohu

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 gerry@mja.law.”

Thae Ohu Congress

Related Links:
Family wants military to help a Marine cope with a sex assault. Instead, she’s in a Chesapeake brig.
Family Wants Military to Help a Marine Cope with a Sex Assault; Instead, She’s in a Brig
This Marine’s family wanted the Corps to help her cope with a sexual assault. Instead, she’s in the brig
Thae Ohu and the mystery surrounding her incarceration
Marine Raped and Then Sent to Brig for Mental Breakdown
Thae Ohu: update from her family

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

Open Letter to House of Representatives in Support of an Independent Investigation of the Murder of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood (July 7, 2020)

Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present): https://wp.me/p3XTUi-5oF

Dear Rep. Jared Golden,

I write to you as a victim of crime in the military and as a military crime historian. I have researched the US military’s crime problems for the last 10 years and have documented as much as humanly possible on my Military Justice for All website. I have over 1000 cases of suspicious deaths, homicide and missing cases. Fort Hood has been problematic for years. I visited both Senator Collins and Senator King in DC to warn them about the problems at Fort Hood in December 2017 and to ask them for their help. It fell on deaf ears. Much like Vanessa Guillen, I too was afraid to report sexual harassment and sexual assault for fear of retaliation. I didn’t report until my supervisor in the Chain of Command attempted to force himself on me. Prior to this incident, I experienced daily sexual harassment and he would give me assignments that isolated me so he could do it with no witnesses.

Rep. Sylvia Garcia is asking that the DoD IG do an investigation of the circumstances that led up to the murder of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood. I am asking you to support her and all of our service members by adding your name to the list of representatives who support these efforts. Fort Hood leadership has failed time and time again and it’s due time that someone take a look at this problematic base. It’s a sad day when we lose 133 servicemembers stateside to violent crime, suicide, and training accidents compared to 2 combat deaths and 4 insider attacks overseas since 2016.

I also ask that you support legislation such as the Military Justice Improvement Act to give our service members a chance to report unsafe situations to an independent authority outside the Chain of Command. As long as service members are fearful of retaliation (which is very real and the reason I have compounded PTSD), we will continue to see high rates of PTSD, murder and suicide on military bases. According to authorities, Vanessa Guillen was murdered because she was planning on reporting someone she worked with for adultery, and this same individual may also have been sexually harassing her. It is unclear at this time who sexually harassed her but she told her family she was scared and feared reporting the sexual harassment to the Chain of Command because it wasn’t taken seriously and she feared retaliation.

Over the years, I have realized that most don’t realize what it’s like to be enlisted and this still rings true. Imagine how powerless we feel as lower enlisted when someone higher ranking than us can literally get away with crime because they are part of the reporting mechanism or they simply don’t care. While Congress sits on their hands, veterans are flocking to the VA to file PTSD claims and military families are grieving the loss of their loved ones whether it be by murder or suicide. I understand why someone might take their own life when they feel trapped and have no way out.

Please do the right thing and support Rep. Garcia, Rep. Speier and Senator Gillibrand.

Sincerely,

Air Force Veteran

Rep Sylvia Garcia

Find your Representative here.

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

The Murder Squad.jpg

The Murder Squad Podcast

“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 Podcast here.

Petitions:
Reopen the investigation of LaVena Johnson’s death
HOLD THE US ARMY ACCOUNTABLE: Justice for Vanessa Guillen

Related Links:
The Murder of Vanessa Guillen and the Unsolved Homicides of Fort Hood
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present)
Seven Unsolved Homicide Cases Affiliated with Fort Hood (January 1, 2016 to Present)
Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson Died of Non Combat Related Injuries in Iraq; Death Ruled Suicide But Independent Investigation Revealed Rape & Murder (July 19, 2005)
Federal Criminal Complaint for Cecily Ann Aguilar, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (July 2, 2020)