Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy met with Killeen-area community leaders this morning at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

McCarthy arrived to the building around 9:40 a.m.. Army officials did not allow the Herald or other media outlets to go inside and observe the meeting.

McCarthy is in Killeen and Fort Hood Wednesday and Thursday to speak with Fort Hood officials, local government and civic leaders about Fort Hood, which has faced heavy criticism in recent months after the death of a female soldier drew nationwide attention.

“The world is a complex and dangerous place,” McCarthy said in a statement Wednesday night. “We need our community leaders more than ever right now to support the Army.”

Civic and political leaders asked questions concerning Army policies on sexual assault and sexual harassment, mental health support, education, recruiting and military and civic collaboration efforts, according to the statement.

“Civic leaders expressed a desire to work with the Army to communicate why Fort Hood is a great place to be assigned. Examples included community engagements with civic sponsored events for Soldiers and military families, town hall meetings, and community outreach programs for the Fort Hood surrounding areas,” according to the statement.

McCarthy ordered an independent review in July to determine whether the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, and the surrounding military community, reflects the Army’s values, including safety, respect, inclusiveness, a commitment to diversity and workplaces and communities free from sexual harassment. The review will be conducted by five civilian experts.

The review came about after the death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, a 3rd Cavalry regiment soldier, put a national spotlight on sexual harassment and assault in the military. Guillen’s family said she had been sexually harassed before her death, but only told her family because she was afraid to go to her chain of command.

“We need to be an institution that not only run towards the sound of gun fire, but who runs to the side of a teammate who is being sexually harassed or assaulted,” McCarthy said in the statement. “There is a way through this together.”

Guillen’s case reached the White House last week when her family met with President Donald Trump, and a bill was introduced in Congress that would allow soldiers to report sexual assault and harassment cases outside of their chain of command.

Protests have been held in Killeen and nationwide since her disappearance in April, demanding transparency from the Army and Fort Hood on what happened and for better reporting procedures on sexual assault and harassment cases.

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, Fort Hood Spc. Aaron David Robinson, fatally shot himself July 1, and another suspect, Killeen resident Cecily Aguilar, is in custody on federal charges.

Aguilar told investigators that Robinson on April 22 struck a “female soldier in the head with a hammer multiple times at his arms room, killing her on Fort Hood.”

McCarthy is hosting a noon news conference today at Fort Hood.

The news conference will be live streamed on the III Corps and Fort Hood Facebook page at: | 254-501-7468

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