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Congressional delegation assess progress during Fort Hood visit

Originally published in the Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD — A congressional delegation of House Armed Services Committee members provided their assessment on the progress of Operation People First, which is the implementation of the recommendations of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, during a press briefing outside of the Bernie Beck Gate at Fort Hood on Thursday.

Congressional members at the briefing were Jackie Speier, District 14 California; Chrissy Houlahan, District 6 Pennsylvania; Sara Jacobs, District 53 California; Marc Veasey, District 33 Texas; and Sylvia Garcia, District 29 Texas — all Democrats.

Speier is the chair of the military personnel subcommittee and last visited Fort Hood in September.


“It’s been about one year since the brutal murder of Vanessa Guillen. Since then, there has been an investigation by an independent review committee that has recommended 70 different changes here at fort hood,” Speier said, referring to the Fort Hood soldier who was killed on post last year.

Speier said Fort Hood leadership informed them that most of those recommendations have been implemented.

“I guess my number one message this afternoon is that Vanessa Guillen did not die in vain,” Speier said. “She will be forevermore associated with our commitment to take sexual harassment and sexual assault cases out of the chain of command.”

Speier said the delegation spoke with leadership, junior enlisted soldiers, first female combat arms officers, and family members.

“I am happy to say that Fort Hood has taken very seriously the criticisms they received,” Speier said.

“There is a seismic change at Fort Hood in terms of the ways they are treating their soldiers,” Speier said. “Probably one of the most important steps they took was returning to what they call a ‘leader book’ so they can connect with each of their soldiers, know where they live, know their telephone numbers, and connect with their families.”

Speier said there were still many areas requiring attention at Fort Hood and other installations throughout the military.

“There are quality of life issues and I continue to say that when a service member serves, so does his or her family, and that brings us to the housing shortage at Fort Hood and the housing conditions at Fort Hood,” Speier said.

Speier said the delegation identified problems with asbestos, lead, and mold in on-base housing and the barracks.

“We have an obligation to these soldiers and their families to give them quality housing and we are going to take the steps to make sure that happens,” Speier said.

Speier said Fort Hood had inadequate daycare with lengthy waiting lists and problems still exist with the installation’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID).

“I am not at all confident that we have the right mix of civilians. We frankly don’t have civilians, for the most part, in Army CID — that needs to change,” Speier said.

Speier said CID made an announcement that there would be changes, but did not have any details, and congressional members would “continue to hold the Army accountable” to ensure that CID becomes a “first-rate criminal investigation division.”

Speier said her goal is to remove sexual assault and sexual harassment cases from the chain of command and has introduced legislation which would accomplish that goal.

Speier said when she visited Fort Hood last September, that Fort Hood’s moniker “The Great Place” was not representative of the installation.

“Today I can say with great confidence (Fort Hood) is a much better place than it was eight months ago, and I want to salute the leadership of (Lt. Gen. Pat) White and his leadership team,” Speier said. “Fort Hood now is a much better place than it ever was before.”