The commander of the U.S. Army's Fort Hood installation is being removed from his post and is barred from transferring to another base as the military opens an in-depth investigation into how officials handled the killing of Vanessa Guillen and other soldiers who died while being stationed there. Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt was scheduled to take over the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, but he has lost that promotion, according to the military.
Army Futures Command Gen. John Murray will now lead a new investigation into how the base's chain of command dealt with the disappearance of Guillen, a 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier who vanished from her post in April.
It took two months for her body to be found. Authorities later said she had been beaten to death in a base armory, then dismembered and buried in concrete near a lake about 20 miles from the central Texas installation.
The new probe into the actions of base leadership is separate from at least four other investigations into Guillen's slaying. The latest inquiry will assess “all of the actions taken and every echelon of the command,” said U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville at a Washington, D.C., press conference on Tuesday.
Efflandt will remain at Fort Hood until all the investigations are completed, military officials said. A decision on his future will be made then, and his removal from his post should not be seen as a punishment, authorities said.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy visited the embattled base last month, and acknowledged the post has a disturbing rate of violent crime, including murder.
“The numbers are high here,” McCarthy said. “They are the highest, in most cases, for sexual assault and harassment and murders for our entire formation — the U.S. Army.”
Guillen's killing is one in a string of deaths involving soldiers at the Army's third-largest installation.
On May 18, the body of Pfc. Brandon Scott Rosecrans, 27, was found on the side of road outside the base. He had been shot multiple times. In June, during a K9 search for Guillen, the remains of Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales were found in Killeen. He disappeared in 2019.
Last week, the body of Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, was found hanging from a tree near railroad tracks in Killeen. He had been missing for a week after being discharged from a military hospital where he was receiving treatment, authorities said.He had earlier reported being sexually abused on base and had been transferred to another unit to protect him from retaliation, Army authorities said.
His death is believed to be a suicide.
In July, the soldier suspected of killing Guillen shot himself to death as authorities approached him for questioning.
Guillen's family said she had spoken of being sexually harassed on base before she disappeared. The Army said it is also investigating sexual harassment and abuse at the base.
The Inspector General’s Office from Army Forces Command told Congress in July that 33 percent of 53 Fort Hood soldiers they surveyed described being sexually harassed at the base, Stars and Stripes reported.