Sec Army's 'hard conversations' continue at Fort Hood in the wake of Spc. Vanessa Guillen's death

Elizabeth Howe
August 06, 2020 - 2:33 pm
Sec Army at Fort Hood

US Army

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As the Army faces civil unrest operations, protests over racism in the ranks, a reckoning against sexual harassment and assault, and the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy has continuously touted one thing as a solution -- continuous, uncomfortable, hard conversations.

During a visit to Fort Hood in Texas on Thursday, he advocated for them again. 

Remains of missing Fort Hood soldier Spc. Vanessa Guillen identified by Army, family says

"A lot of this is just the consistency of meeting and having the conversations like the ones we've had over the last 24 hours," McCarthy said of his conversations with Fort Hood soldiers at every level of the chain of command. "They're hard, they're uncomfortable -- but it's a way for us to learn about each other and realize that an act like (sexual assault or harassment) is like committing a fratricide within your own formation. It's hurting a teammate."

McCarthy visited Fort Hood as the aftermath of the murder of Guillen continues to unfold. Almost a month ago, McCarthy announced that the command climate at Fort Hood would be subject to an independent review. 

"We are the Army. We are a reflection of the country. At times people infiltrate our ranks. We have to find them. We have to root them out," McCarthy said. 

However, while the independent review is conducted, Fort Hood will remain operational despite calls from grassroots movements and members of Congress that the installation come to an operational halt until those responsible for the murder and alleged cover-up of Guillen are identified. 

Women veterans and troops are demanding justice for Spc. Vanessa Guillen

"The anger and frustration in a case like Vanessa's -- it's necessary. I'm angry, I'm frustrated, I'm disappointed. We're heartbroken. But there are still amazing contributions by men and women from this installation," McCarthy said. "We rely on these units to protect our way of life."

If Fort Hood meets the Army's standards, Congress says those standards must change

In addition to the ongoing independent review, McCarthy said the Army is in regular conversations with members of Congress working to ensure that the various pieces of proposed legislation introduced in Guillen's name are operationally viable. 

"We're going to do everything we can to ... learn from this. And to move on," McCarthy added. "We will do everything we can to protect her legacy by making enduring changes."

Family of slain soldier marches to deliver 'I Am Vanessa Guillen' bill to POTUS

While Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville and President Donald Trump have both met personally with the Guillen family, McCarthy has been criticized for not doing so. He reiterated during Thursday's press conference that he is open to meeting with the Guillen family. 

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Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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