Army punishes 14 senior officers after murder and other deaths at Fort Hood

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By Zachary Cohen and Ryan Browne, CNN

(CNN) -- The Army announced Tuesday that 14 senior officers will be punished following a probe that was initiated after the murder of a soldier and several other deaths at the Army's Fort Hood base in Texas this year.

The issues at Fort Hood are "directly related to leadership failures," Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said.

"I directed the relief and or suspension of commanders and other leaders from the corps to the squad level," he said, saying 14 senior officers "have been relieved of suspended from their positions."

The independent review was ordered after the death of Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old soldier, whose remains were discovered in a shallow grave in late June, months after her disappearance in April. It was later determined she had been bludgeoned to death with a hammer in the armory where she worked and her body was moved by her killer who then killed himself before he could be apprehended.

The murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen "shocked our conscious and brought attention to deeper problems," McCarthy said.

"The initial investigation into Vanessa's death, coupled with high numbers of crimes and deaths at Fort Hood, has revealed a series of missteps and multiple failures in our system and within our leadership," he added.

The outside independent review unveiled on Tuesday details deep concerns about the culture at the base and suggests top generals and senior enlisted personnel are not paying enough attention to the welfare of the troops. It outlines specific concerns about how searches for soldiers who have gone missing as well as sexual assault and sexual harassment cases have been handled.

The Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, which was tasked with examining the culture and climate at the Army post, found "a deficient climate" there, including "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," according to the Pentagon.

Fort Hood leadership knew or should have known of the high risk of harm to female soldiers, according to the report.

"Soldiers assaulting and harassing other Soldiers is contrary to Army values and requires a dramatic change in culture," Chris Swecker, the committee chair, said. "The committee determined that, during the time period covered by our review, there was a permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment at Fort Hood. We have recommended changes to the staffing, structure and implementation of the SHARP program at Fort Hood, and possibly beyond, to address deeply dysfunctional norms and regain Soldiers' trust."

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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