Army leaders have confirmed that slain Spc. Vanessa Guillen was sexually harassed by a supervisor in her unit, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood.
A lengthy investigation directed by Gen. Michael X. Garrett, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, revealed that Guillen was harassed by a supervisor in a unit orderly room and in the field during training in 2019, about nine or 10 months before her disappearance.
Investigators, however, did not find a connection between the sexual harassment and her subsequent disappearance and death.
As a result of Guillen’s unit’s failure to take action, Garrett has approved the firing or reprimand of a total of 21 non-commissioned officers and officers.
Seven leaders were recently identified to receive “adverse action” as a result of the Army investigation that was headed up by Gen. John Murray, commander of U.S. Army Futures Command in Austin.
Those seven officers and noncommissioned officers will receive general officer memorandums of reprimand from Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Pat White, Army officials said in an over-the-phone news conference Friday.
The purpose of the investigation was to determine whether Guillen had been sexually harassed or not.
The Army Regulation 15-6 investigation is the Army’s standard method of investigation and is used to collect and analyze facts and make recommendations based on those facts.
Murray led the investigation and appointed 10 assistant investigating officers and 50 subject matter experts.
They interviewed 151 witnesses, reviewed over 6,000 emails and analyzed over 11,500 pages of documents, the Army report said.
The investigation revealed that Guillen was sexually harassed on two separate occasions.
Investigators determined that in late summer 2019, a supervisor said an inappropriate comment in Spanish that Guillen had said she interpreted as a solicitation to participate in a “threesome,” investigators learned while interviewing witnesses.
After another supervisor noticed a demeanor change and asked her about it, Guillen told the supervisor and another soldier about the incident and later confided in select peers.
Between Sept. 16, 2019, and Oct. 9, 2019, two soldiers reported the incident to her unit leadership, who failed to initiate an investigation, Army officials said.
Interviews with witnesses revealed that after Guillen reported the incident, the supervisor specifically targeted her by calling her out in front of others and making an example out of her, the Army report said.
Witnesses also told investigators that during a field training exercise, the same supervisor “encountered” Guillen while she performed personal hygiene in a wood line.
The Army did not provide the name or rank of the supervisor, citing reasons of privacy.
The supervisor was among the group of leaders who were relieved in the wake of the findings of an Independent Review Committee investigation that was directed by then-Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. The results of that investigation were released in December 2020.
Maj. Gen. Gene LeBoeuf, U.S. Army Forces Command chief of staff, said during the news briefing Friday that the administrative actions do not necessarily mean they have been removed from the Army, but the actions are severe.
“A relief for cause is an administrative action that is to relieve an individual, leader or commander from their position of responsibility,” LeBoeuf said. “... The relief for cause also then generates an action with respect to their evaluations.”
LeBoeuf said the reason for the relief for cause is annotated in the leader’s evaluation and is available for Army officials to review.
Memorandums of reprimand also communicate specific misconduct found as part of an investigation.
“There is a process, and these are initial actions that are being taken as a part of this investigation, and so there is now a period in which the individuals that are facing these adverse actions can respond and provide additional information,” LeBoeuf said.
LeBoeuf said the information provided will be taken into consideration before final action is taken.
“With respect to impacts on the career, that would be speculative of me to make further comment on,” LeBoeuf said.
Guillen, 20, was found dead at end of June in East Bell County after she was reported missing from Fort Hood since April 22.
A suspect in the case at the time, Fort Hood Spc. Aaron David Robinson, fatally shot himself July 1. Another suspect, Killeen resident Cecily Aguilar, is in custody on federal charges.
Aguilar pleaded not guilty on July 14, 2020, to one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and two substantive counts of tampering with evidence. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Texas.
Aguilar is accused of helping her boyfriend, Robinson, 20, dispose of Guillen’s body after investigators said he killed her with a hammer on April 22, 2020, according to a federal criminal complaint.
She is still in prison awaiting trial.
As part of the release from the Army, Murray summarized nine key findings from the investigation.
The key findings Murray highlighted are:
- Spc. Guillen was sexually harassed by a supervisor; her leaders failed to take appropriate action
- Spc. Robinson sexually harassed another soldier (not Spc. Guillen)
- The regiment did not sufficiently emphasize the response and prevention of sexual harassment
- Spc. Guillen’s unit did not properly follow accountability standards for soldiers during the “shelter in place” order.
- The acting senior commander of Fort Hood failed to effectively engage the media and the public following Spc. Guillen’s disappearance
- The Army was ineffective at engaging in social media
- Leaders failed to take corrective actions regarding a toxic leader
- The search for Spc. Guillen was immediate and well-coordinated
- The Army did not have an appropriate classification of duty status