Congressional delegation holds press conference at Fort Hood
KILLEEN, Texas - A Congressional delegation spoke at Fort Hood Friday afternoon concerning the recent deaths at the Army post.
The delegation of eight U.S. Representatives visited Fort Hood Friday to perform their oversight role in the wake of a number of concerning events involving the military installation, including the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen.
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U.S. Reps Jackie Speier (D-CA), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) were in attendance at the press conference.
Lynch and Speier previously sent a letter to Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy requesting documents and information on the deaths. According to the letter, their subcommittees will jointly investigate if recent deaths "may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command."
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The letter said that according to Army data there were an average of 129 felonies committed annually at Fort Hood between 2014 and 2019, including cases of homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assault.
The members of Congress cited the deaths of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who according to federal officials was bludgeoned to death at the Texas base in April by a fellow soldier, and Pvt. Gregory Morales, whose remains were found in June while searching for Guillen. Morales was reported missing in August 2019.
The letter also names Pvt. Mejhor Morta and Sgt. Elder Fernandes, whose deaths are still under investigation, and the homicide investigations of Pvt. Brandon Scott Rosecrans, Spc. Freddy Delacruz Jr. and Spc. Shelby Tyler Jones.
According to the letter, McCarthy during an August visit to Texas stated that Fort Hood had the "highest, the most cases for sexual assault and harassment and murders for our entire formation of the US Army."
Lynch and Speier said they will report the conditions and circumstances that could have contributed to the soldiers’ deaths and seek justice on behalf of soldiers and families "who may have been failed by a military system and culture that was ultimately responsible for their care and protection."
This press conference comes after three U.S. Senators, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, sent a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee leadership to request they hold a hearing on the recent deaths at Fort Hood.
"As parents and United States Senators, we are heartbroken by the deaths of SGT Fernandes, SPC Guillén, and the other U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, and we are determined to seek justice and answers for their families and to ensure the Army is implementing necessary reforms at Fort Hood, and that Congress is holding the Army accountable," the senators say.
Recently five civilian members of a committee to conduct an independent review of Fort Hood spent two weeks on a fact-finding mission to examine the command climate and culture at Fort Hood and the surrounding military community to determine whether they reflect the Army's commitment to safety, respect, inclusiveness, diversity, and freedom from sexual harassment.
RELATED: Civilian independent review committee members arrive at Fort Hood
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Gen. James McConville, Chief of Staff of the Army, have requested an interim program report by mid-September and a final report by Oct. 30.