The Army will soon hire four civilian consultants to lead a review of the command climate at Fort Hood, Texas, amid mounting pressure from lawmakers and Hispanic advocacy groups looking for answers about the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen.
"I want to express my condolences to the Guillen family," Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Friday in a news release, after meeting with leaders of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). "We are saddened and deeply troubled by the loss of one of our own, Specialist Vanessa Guillen."
McCarthy ordered the independent review to determine whether the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, and the surrounding military community, "reflects Army values, including respect, inclusiveness, and workplaces free from sexual harassment," the release states.
As soon as the Army hires the four civilian consultants, they will form a panel and spend up to 10 days at Fort Hood.
"They will review historical data, such as command climate surveys, Inspector General reports, criminal/military justice reports and sexual harassment and sexual assault response program statistics," according to the release. "Additionally, they will conduct interviews with military members and members of the Fort Hood community."
Guillen, a 20-year-old 3rd Cavalry Regiment soldier, disappeared April 22 from Fort Hood. Army officials announced Monday that her remains had been identified after being discovered in Bell County.
An investigation revealed that Spc. Aaron Robinson allegedly murdered Guillen on the day she disappeared, according to a July 2 criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas.
Robinson allegedly told 22-year-old Cecily Aguilar that he killed Guillen "by striking her in the head with a hammer" while on post and then smuggled her body to a remote site in Bell County, the complaint states.
Aguilar, a civilian and the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier, allegedly helped Robinson mutilate and dispose of Guillen's body, according to the complaint. Federal authorities charged Aguilar with conspiracy to tamper with evidence in Guillen's disappearance, according to the complaint.
Several lawmakers, as well as Hispanic advocacy groups such as LULAC, have called for separate investigations into Fort Hood's handling of the case.
Under Secretary of the Army James E. McPherson and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Joseph M. Martin will co-chair an implementation team, which will consider every recommendation from the panel and make changes as appropriate, the release states.
"The Army's strength comes from our diverse force, and we must increase our efforts to ensure that we are representative of the nation," McCarthy said in the release.
He added that he wants to ensure the service is a more inclusive organization and to "strengthen the Army's relationship with LULAC and the Hispanic community as a whole."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.