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Spc. Vanessa Guillén, 20, was found dead June 30 after going missing last April.
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Fort Hood’s toxic culture? Red flags raised over mysterious disappearances, sexual assaults

The disappearance of Vanessa Guillén, a 20-year-old soldier at the stretching Texas Army base of Fort Hood last April, caught headings throughout the world.

After 10 troubling weeks and growing worries that another soldier who had actually sexually bugged her was included, Guillén’s dismembered, burnt body parts were uncovered from a box by a river. That fellow soldier, her suspected killer, passed away by suicide as authorities inched more detailed to him.

However critics of the military setup vow there is far more to it. In 2015, more than 30 soldiers related to Fort Hood passed away – 11 were considered suicides and 5 murders.

The general public outrage at Guillén’s murder required an independent evaluation of the base, led by a five-member civilian group. The findings discovered a “deficient climate” at Fort Hood, along with an “ineffective implementation of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program that resulted in a pervasive lack of confidence, fear of retaliation, and significant underreporting of cases, particularly within the enlisted ranks.”

However the evaluation revealed Tuesday likewise information deep issues about the culture at the base, which has a population of over 60,000, consisting of almost 37,000 service members.

“The murder of Specialist Vanessa Guillén shocked our conscience and brought attention to deeper problems,” specified Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. 


Beyond sexual harassment, the committee’s findings likewise cast a troubling light on the “ad hoc approach” to soldiers who do disappoint up for responsibility. They are immediately identified “Absent Without Official Leave” (AWOL), with couple of resources committed to discovering them or discovering why they’re missing out on. Guillén was noted AWOL although her vehicle secrets and military recognition were still inside the fort, her vehicle remained in the car park, and there was no activity on her checking account.

Spc. Vanessa Guillén, 20, was discovered dead June 30 after going missing out on last April.

“In the civilian world, people are treated not as AWOL, but as missing persons. Our military is not second-class citizens,” Natalie Khawam, the Guillens’ lawyer, informed Fox News. “This needs to be the year of the military. Who wants to join if cases are mishandled, and there is a real abuse of power and discretion?” 

The report likewise indicated an absence of experience and high turnover within the ranks of the Wrongdoer Examination Department, causing issues with introducing enough examinations.

As it stands, there are more than 1,000 deserters desired by the U.S. Army and it stays uncertain clearly what is being done to identify their fates. 10 months prior to Guillen vanished, Pvt. Gregory Morales likewise disappeared from Fort Hood. His body was accidentally recuperated a couple of miles from the base in June, throughout the look for Guillen. He had actually been noted as AWOL in August 2019 and later on as a deserter.

Nevertheless, for his mom, Kim Wedel, her life in Oklahoma stopped as she advocated help and responses from Fort Hood’s Army Crook Examination Department (CID).

“If any other business had this many glaring problems, leadership would be gone. Why did it take an investigation to see that the CID was understaffed and overwhelmed? There was a lack of response from CID, and they certainly didn’t know what to do with me as a mom calling all the time,” Wedel informed Fox News.

“If any other business had this many glaring problems, leadership would be gone.”

— Kim Wedel, mom of Army personal who passed away under suspicious scenarios.

The Killeen Authorities Department is heading the examination into Morales’ death, in which nasty play is believed, according to regional reports. 

“The Army didn’t care enough to see there was a problem,” Wedel asserted. “I still haven’t really heard from anyone down there. My son will never be at the forefront, and it is shocking how many parents like us are out there. People don’t just disappear because they choose to.”

Ten months before Vanessa Guillen disappeared, Private Gregory Morales also vanished from Fort Hood. His body was unintentionally recovered a few miles from the base in June, amid the search for Guillen, having been listed as AWOL in August 2019 and later as a deserter.

10 months prior to Vanessa Guillen vanished, Personal Gregory Morales likewise disappeared from Fort Hood. His body was accidentally recuperated a couple of miles from the base in June, in the middle of the look for Guillen, having actually been noted as AWOL in August 2019 and later on as a deserter.
(Courtesy Kim Wedel)

Scott Weinhold, 24, a veteran of Fort Hood, fished with good friends from the base in February 2019. He vanished and his body was ultimately discovered at Temple Lake Park together with that of his good friend and fellow soldier. His death was ruled a drowning with hypothermia.

There was one survivor, however according to his New Hampshire-based mom, Jennifer Florin, she has actually never ever been provided correct access to him and she is delegated piece together her kid’s last hours.

Florin likewise declared that there were risks of arrest from Fort Hood leaders throughout their preliminary look for their kid, relating to remaining in waters coming from the base.  

However what was even worse, Florin stated, was needing to purchase her own flag, then discovering that authorities were not allowed to go to due to the fact that of a back-up at the crematory. The household required to go back to the East Coast.

Scott Weinhold, 24, a veteran of Fort Hood, went fishing with two active-duty friends from the base in February 2019. Weinhold's body – along with that of his friend and fellow soldier - was eventually found at Temple Lake Park.

Scott Weinhold, 24, a veteran of Fort Hood, fished with 2 active-duty good friends from the base in February 2019. Weinhold’s body – together with that of his good friend and fellow soldier – was ultimately discovered at Temple Lake Park.
(Courtesy Jennifer Florin)

“It was just one slap in the face after another; it was horrific,” she stated. “I would like to see a complete investigation that isn’t only focused on sexual trauma because there are a lot more issues at that base. It needs drastic oversight. We thought we had to be worried about sending our children to foreign soil, but it turns out we have to be more worried about them here.”

“We thought we had to be worried about sending our children to foreign soil, but it turns out we have to be more worried about them here.”

— Jennifer Florin, mom of dead Fort Hood veteran


Undoubtedly, issues have actually pestered Fort Hood through several administrations, according to member of the family torn by sorrow and disappointment.

The household of Fort Hood Army Cpl. Christopher Ferguson stated his death in March 2007 is soaked in secret and they are still in discomfort nearly 14 years later on.

“We got a call one night that he had been drunk, and got into an accident and had fallen several stories from a balcony and landed on the top of his head,” his sis, Christina McDonald remembered.

On the flight from Ohio, she pictured her sibling covered like a mummy in plasters at the healthcare facility. “Only he just looked as though he was sleeping, minimal scratches, no broken bones,” she stated.

Ferguson, who McDonald referred to as “very straight-edged and never drank or smoked or got into trouble,” was on life assistance and never ever gained back awareness. However absolutely nothing, she stated, that she was being outlined the off-base event at a fellow Fort Hood soldier’s apartment or condo that night ever made good sense. 

She kept in mind that she later on discovered her sibling’s video camera, total with photos at the apartment or condo that night of individuals who had actually promised that they were never ever there. When she promoted an independent medical exam, she was informed it appeared more like her sibling had actually been struck, “and his brain was jarred.”

The main cause of death was “undetermined” however ruled a mishap years later on, McDonald stated. She stated there is neither closure nor clearness.

However victims and doubters of the setup’s management have actually long complained that for several years, responses and openness were challenging to come by.

That exact same year, 2007, 20-year-old Spc. Kamisha Block released to Iraq with a military authorities system from Fort Hood, however was shot and eliminated simply weeks later on by Personnel Sgt. Paul Brandon Norris. Block’s more youthful sis Shonta stated he later on eliminated himself. 

Both Block and Norris were members of the 401st Armed Force Authorities Business and thought to have actually remained in a secret relationship; it was forbidden under the Uniform Code of Armed Force Justice. However it turned terrible in a battle zone more than 7,000 miles away.

At the time, the troubled Block household – at their house in Vidor, Texas – were notified that Block passed away from a friendly fire gunshot through the heart. Yet after seeing the body at a regional funeral house, Shonta questioned the main cause of death.

“When I saw her, I said, ‘Mom, that’s not her hair’ – there was a fake bun glued to her head. Her head had been blown out at the back,” Shonta informed Fox News, worrying that the body revealed several bullet injuries instead of just one, as they had actually been notified. “My family never got answers.”  

In 2007, 20-year-old Specialist Kamisha Block deployed to Iraq with a military police unit from Fort Hood but was shot and killed just weeks later by Staff Sgt. Paul Brandon Norris, who – in the words of Block's younger sister Shonta – went on to "murder himself."

In 2007, 20-year-old Professional Kamisha Block released to Iraq with a military authorities system from Fort Hood however was shot and eliminated simply weeks later on by Personnel Sgt. Paul Brandon Norris, who – in the words of Block’s more youthful sis Shonta – went on to “murder himself.”

With her advocacy, the Army re-opened the case in 2018 to examine an accusation that somebody was bought to damage medical records associated with the case. It was closed once again in 2020, on the premises that “no credible information was found to substantiate the allegations.”

“The Army opened it and handed it right back to CID,” Shonta regreted.

Nevertheless, modification might be coming.

Considering that the evaluation, McCarthy has actually bought the shooting, suspension, or re-assignment of 14 of Fort Hood’s senior management – a variety of whom belonged to CID. It marks among the most considerable punitive actions ever carried out by the service.

The independent committee likewise presented 70 suggestions “relating to areas including SHARP; Fort Hood Criminal Investigation Command (CID); missing Soldier protocols; and the installation’s crime prevention and public relations efforts.”

“In response to the findings of the independent review, the Secretary of the Army signed a directive clarifying expectations and responsibilities of unit commanders and Army law enforcement authorities focused on the first 48 hours after a Soldier fails to report for duty,” an Army representative informed Fox News. “When one of our teammates does not report for duty, we now change their duty status to ‘absent-unknown’ and take immediate action to find them.”

“When one of our teammates does not report for duty, we now change their duty status to ‘absent-unknown’ and take immediate action to find them.”

— Army representative

The representative likewise highlighted that “the challenges at Fort Hood forced us to take a critical look at our systems, our policies, and ourselves.”

“While the independent review focused on the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, the findings contained in the committee’s report impact the entire Army and more than 1.2 million Soldiers,” the representative continued. “In response, we created the People First Task Force to analyze the findings and recommendations in the report, develop a plan of action to address issues identified by the committee, and reevaluate current policy and programs.”

The Job Force will provide its suggestions to Army management as rapidly as possible for Army senior leaders’ evaluation and application.

Under McCarthy’s instructions, the armed force likewise is running its own examination into Fort Hood, and even more disciplinary steps might be taken. 


Nevertheless, numerous soldiers and households linked to Fort Hood informed Fox News that the workers modifications were simply cosmetic, and they feared “business as usual” when the spotlight faded.

Jennifer Norris, a Flying force veteran and military criminal activity expert who has actually concentrated on Fort Hood problems considering that 2016, stated in order to look forward, one likewise should recall.

“The deaths ruled a suicide – they need to be investigated. Why did they take their lives? Were those deaths properly investigated? Was it really a suicide, or was it a murder? Everything needs to be questioned,” she included. “We can’t just pretend the last 20 years didn’t happen.” 

If you or somebody you understand is at danger of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Avoidance Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOUSE to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for extra resources.

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