The Army is taking steps to hopefully ensure that poor command climate at Fort Hood, Texas, and service-wide will become a thing of the past. The post had been beset by a series of serious situations in which soldiers who died under suspicious circumstances were initially marked as AWOL.
From now on, soldiers who fail to appear for duty initially will be considered as “absent-unknown” rather than AWOL for the first 48 hours. The move is intended to prompt a thorough search for the missing soldier. If the soldier is not found within 48 hours, he or she will then be considered “missing.” At that point, the service will launch a “duty status whereabouts unknown” casualty case.
The investigation determined that Criminal Investigation Command personnel at Hood were “inexperienced and over-assigned.” It contained 70 recommendations to address shortfalls in sexual-harassment mitigation, criminal investigations, crime prevention and missing-soldier protocols.
The problems at Hood were multi-faceted. A female soldier there who died was allegedly victimized by sexual abusers who went unpunished. Another male soldier who disappeared was marked AWOL, but later found dead under suspicious circumstances.
The spate of incidents triggered an internal investigation that concluded the Army as a whole, and Hood leadership in particular, failed to act on sexual assault complaints. In all, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy either fired or relieved 14 officers and senior non-commissioned officers who held senior positions at Hood. Those fired included: Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt, the deputy commanding general (support); Col. Ralph Overland, 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander; and Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, the command sergeant major. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division, and Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenney, the division’s command sergeant major, were suspended pending the outcome of a non-judicial punishment investigation under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.