AUSTIN, Texas — The U.S. Army on Friday confirmed for the first time that slain Spc. Vanessa Guillen was sexually harassed and further retaliated against at Fort Hood, which her family in Houston has consistently alleged in their fight for criminal justice reform in the military.
In late summer of 2019, Guillen, who was then a private first class, was the victim of sexual harassment after her superior in a troop orderly room in Spanish tried to solicit her to participate in a threesome, according to a report released by Gen. John Murray, the commander of Army Futures Command based in Austin.
Guillen’s superior would then go on to target her, calling her out in front of her peers and consistently making an example out of her, according to the report.
“During a field training exercise, this same supervisor encountered Spc. Guillen while she performed personal hygiene in the wood line and Spc. Guillen reported that this made her uncomfortable,” the report said. “During this time, she was under cover in the wood line.”
The report says Guillen first reported the incident to another supervisor and fellow solider, before later confiding in two more of her peers, after the supervisor noticed she was acting differently and asked if she was OK.
From Sept. 16, 2019, until Oct. 9, 2019, two soldiers reported the incident to Guillen’s unit leadership, who failed to initiate an investigation, the report said.
Maj. Gen. Gene LeBoeuf, chief of staff for the U.S. Army Forces Command, said privacy concerns kept him from releasing the name of the superior accused of sexually harassing Guillen. However, he did say the person was one among 14 Fort Hood leaders who were either fired or suspended for their actions related to Guillen’s disappearance and death.
Authorities suspect a fellow Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, beat Guillen to death with a hammer in an armory room on post the morning of April 22, 2020. Robinson fatally shot himself July 1 as authorities tried to question him, according to Killeen police.
During one of the protests outside Fort Hood, before Vanessa’s remains were discovered, Gloria Guillen revealed that her daughter had confided in her that multiple soldiers were sexually harassing her on post. Army officials until Friday have maintained that they had no evidence to substantiate those allegations.
Gloria said Robinson was one of several soldiers her daughter said was sexually harassing her while serving at Fort Hood.
Despite no confirmation of these allegations from the Army, the public rallied behind Gloria and the Guillen family, triggering a viral social media hashtag, #IAmVanessaGuillen, that hundreds of service members used to share their own experiences with sexual misconduct in the military.
Many of the stories were similar, often saying the military did little or nothing to investigate the incidents or prosecute the offenders. In many of the social media posts, soldiers said they never reported their experiences out of fear of retaliation.
LeBoeuf on Friday said Murray’s investigation found no evidence that Robinson had sexually harassed Guillen, although evidence showed he did sexually harass another soldier.
Murray was appointed to investigate Fort Hood unit leaders at multiple levels regarding their responses to the disappearance and death of Guillen. Murray’s investigation also included looking into possible failures by the 3rd Cavalry Regiment’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program and other programs and procedures.
Murray’s investigation did not include criminal misconduct connected to the disappearance and death of Guillen. The FBI, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and other law enforcement agencies under the supervision of the U.S. attorney’s office are still actively investigating those matters, according to the report.
The investigation was also separate from the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, a group of former military and law enforcement agents who found, according to a report released in December, that Fort Hood leaders created a permissive environment that led to its culture of crimes, namely those involving sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The Fort Hood Independent Review Committee’s report released in December led to the firings or suspensions of 14 Fort Hood leaders, including Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was one of the post’s top commanders at the time of Guillen’s death.
LeBoeuf on Friday said that six of those Fort Hood leaders were connected with Murray’s investigation as well. In total, 21 people in the U.S. Army at Fort Hood received punitive actions in Guillen’s case, including firings, suspensions and reprimands.
By Heather Osbourne | Austin American-Statesman