Senators called for an independent investigation into Ft. Hood after the disappearance and death of Brockton native Elder Fernandes, who died near the base in August
Washington (December 8, 2020) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement upon the release of the report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, which was tasked with investigating the command culture and climate at Fort Hood Army Base, near Killeen, Texas. The report’s executive summary reveals pervasive deficiencies in the sexual harassment and assault reporting structure, a lack of clearly outlined procedures for responding to reports of missing soldiers, and a command culture permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault, among other problems. As a result of the report’s findings, the Army announced today they are firing or suspending 14 Fort Hood commanders and other leaders.
“The pervasive problems found by the independent investigation into Fort Hood demonstrate a gross disregard by Army leadership and the Command at Fort Hood for the safety and well-being of America’s soldiers,” said Senators Markey and Warren. “It should not have taken the deaths of dozens of men and women of our armed forces serving at Fort Hood to trigger an investigation.
“While we appreciate the findings of the independent investigation, it’s been clear that the Army’s leadership must be held accountable for the harm caused by allowing a climate of harassment, fear, and retaliation to take hold for so long. The Army must make immediately clear what steps it will be taking to address the problems outlined in the report. Top Army leadership should testify before the Senate as soon as possible, and the incoming Biden administration must continue to ensure that the problems caused by the lack of leadership and lack of care for the soldiers serving at Fort Hood are fully resolved.
“When a young person puts on the Army uniform it becomes our responsibility to keep them safe,” continued the Senators. “The U.S. Army failed Sergeant Elder Fernandes, Specialist Vanessa Guillen, and their families and they, like the families of all of the soldiers who have suffered at Fort Hood, deserve justice.”
In September, Senators Markey and Warren, and Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (MA-01) 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.