Fort Hood became the face of the growing problem with sexual assault in the military this week when the Defense Department announced an investigation into sexual assaults involving a noncommissioned officer tasked with preventing the crime.
In the latest case, a sergeant first class, whose name has not been released, was assigned as a coordinator of a battalion-level sexual assault prevention program at Fort Hood. He has been suspended from all duties but has not been charged with any crime.
“We have the finest men and women in the world in our armed services, and harassment and abuse have no place in the military,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a member of the Armed Services Committee. “There should be a thorough and fair investigation into this matter and full accountability if the allegations are proven true.”
A defense official in Washington said it was not yet clear if one of the three women who made allegations against the Fort Hood sergeant was forced into prostitution.
The official added that the sergeant is being investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting one of the other two women. The allegations involving the third woman were not known.
Another U.S. official said the sergeant had service in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and that there were no obvious problems with his military record on an initial review.
The soldier is being investigated by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. No charges have been filed, but officials said they expect them soon.
Fort Hood has more than 700 soldiers trained through the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, known as SHARP, working either full time at the brigade level, or as an additional duty at the lower command levels. These unit reps have to be at least a sergeant promotable or first lieutenant. These individuals also are responsible for SHARP training within the unit.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the re-training, re-certifying and re-screening of all sexual assault prevention and response personnel, as well as military recruiters, who have been accused in recent sexual misconduct cases.
Changes on post
In September, Fort Hood’s SHARP program made changes aimed at raising awareness and easing reporting, moving the program out of the Equal Opportunity offices and into its own building across from III Corps headquarters, said Lt. Col. Jacqueline Davis, Fort Hood’s SHARP program manager, during a January interview. Nine soldiers are assigned to the facility.
The move also signified a change from an installation program to a command program, overseen by the post’s commander, and aligned the program with Department of the Army guidelines that went into effect Oct. 1. The command emphasis allows soldiers seeking help to have a voice in their units.
Fort Hood officials would not comment on the current status of the SHARP office and if it was still open for soldiers to seek care. It is also unknown if SHARP representatives are operating in their units.
No ‘quick fix’
A Pentagon report last week estimated that as many as 26,000 military members out of 1.4 million in the services may have been sexually assaulted last year, based on survey results.
At Fort Hood, more than 100 people reported and used SHARP services in fiscal year 2012, Davis said, adding not all of those cases occurred locally.
That report, and a recent series of arrests and other sexual assault problems across the military, have triggered a rush of initiatives from the Pentagon and proposed legislation on Capitol Hill. But experts warn that stemming an increase in assaults will require concrete changes — both in law and in military culture.
“There is not a quick fix,” said Anu Bhagwati, former Marine captain and executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network. “The military can’t train its way out of this problem.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.