A 21-year-old Fort Hood soldier pleaded guilty to a charge of sexual abuse of a child in a federal court in Waco on Thursday.

Spc. Ethan Thomas Hays, of Chattaroy, Wash., was accused of having sex with a 14-year-old girl on post in October, according to federal investigators. He faces up to 15 years in prison when he’s sentenced March 5.

Hays left his duty station without permission and traveled to Illinois, where he picked up the girl, whom he met online. Hays brought her back to Fort Hood on Oct. 17 and hid her in his barracks room for several days, according to court records. Hays told FBI investigators he was aware of the girl’s age.

Hays joined the Army in July 2010, and was assigned to 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, at Fort Hood in December 2010, according to information from the Army Human Resources Command. Hays served in Iraq from June 2011 to August 2012.

Hays is being held in McLennan County Jail awaiting his March 5 sentencing hearing.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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