Two Congressional subcommittees have launched an investigation into Fort Hood after an alarming number of deaths and felonies were reported at the troubled Texas Army base this year.
Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) announced the probe in a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy dated Tuesday, calling for McCarthy to provide documents on administrative responses to the deaths and reports of sexual harassment.
“As Members of Congress, it is our solemn responsibility to provide a full accounting of the conditions and circumstances that may have contributed to the recent disappearances and deaths of U.S. Army personnel at Fort Hood,” wrote Lynch and McCarthy, chairmen of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, respectively.
“Where appropriate, we intend to seek justice on behalf of those in uniform, and their families, who may have been failed by a military system and culture that was ultimately responsible for their care and protection.”
At least 28 soldiers have died at the base this year. Four who were reported missing were found dead around the base, including Specialist Vanessa Guillen, whose killing sparked national outrage.
Lynch and Speier wrote it was “significant and disturbing” that both Guillen, 20, and Sergeant Elder Fernandes, 23, were discovered dead after allegedly being sexually abused or harassed.
McCarthy has acknowledged the unusually high number of deaths at the military base and has announced the Army’s own independent investigation into the facility. The Army also removed Fort Hood’s commander, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, from his post earlier this month.
But the representatives say Congress needs to step in as well. Between 2014 and 2019, there were an average of 129 felonies committed each year at Fort Hood. Those cases include homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assault, according to the House reps.
“While the Army has directed an independent review of Fort Hood, Congressional oversight is necessary to determine whether base leadership—by omission or commission—has allowed or enabled a culture to exist that undermines the values and traditions of the U.S. Army,” they wrote.
Pvt. Corlton L. Chee, 25, became the latest fatality at Fort Hood when he passed away last week. He had collapsed during a physical fitness exercise several days prior, according to Fort Hood officials.
At least four soldiers — Fernandes, Guillen, Mejhor Morta, 26, and Gregory Morales, 24 — were all found dead around the grounds.
Guillen was found this July after Army officials allege fellow soldier Aaron David Robinson bludgeoned her with a hammer.
Fernandes was found hanging in a tree this summer after reporting sexual abuse at the base.