Last week, Representative Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), Navy Veteran and Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, joined a congressional delegation to Fort Hood to investigate the Army’s inadequate response to the disappearance and murder of SPC Vanessa Guillén and the deaths of PV2 Gregory Wedel Morales, SGT Elder Fernandes, PFC Brandon Rosecrans, SPC Freddy Delacruz, and many more.
“Our congressional oversight trip to Fort Hood was concerning and upsetting, as we left with more questions than answers. In talking to our soldiers, it’s clear that there needs to be improvements made, from reporting sexual harassment and assault to military base housing to overall morale,” Rep. Cisneros said. “Military leadership has a lot of work to do in order to turn things around. The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act is just a first step to changing our military culture, but we need to do more.”
So far this year, nearly 30 servicemembers at the base have died, including eight killed in accidents, six suicides, five homicides, and two related to illness. The cause of at least six other deaths is undetermined. Army Leadership admits that Fort Hood has the worst rate of violent crime and incidents among all of its U.S. installations. Throughout the CODEL, Rep. Cisneros and his colleagues spoke to servicemembers of all ranks, their spouses, leadership, and advocates about the culture of violence and harassment that has left the brave men and women serving our country to live in a state of constant fear. The delegation also witnessed the appalling conditions on the base and substandard housing conditions that threaten troop readiness and morale and the health and wellbeing of the base’s families.
Rep. Cisneros was joined by Jackie Speier (CA-14), Jason Crow (CO-6), Stephen Lynch (MA-8), Katherine Clark (MA-5), Sylvia Garcia (TX -29), and Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) in talking to servicemembers on the base, questioning base and Army leadership, and inspecting the crime scenes connected to several of these cases.
Last week, Rep. Cisneros joined his Republican and Democratic colleagues to introduce the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, which would revolutionize the military’s response to missing servicemembers and reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault. It would make sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and move prosecution decisions of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases out of the chain of command.
This article was released by the Office of Congressman Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr.