The Army has directed a new general to take acting command of Fort Hood, a central Texas military installation thrust into the public spotlight in recent months over a series of violent deaths and disappearances among soldiers stationed there, senior service officials told reporters Tuesday.
Army Futures Command boss Gen. John Murray will also lead an in-depth investigation into the actions taken by the post’s chain of command following the disappearance of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, a Fort Hood soldier who prosecutors say was murdered in an armory and then dismembered by a fellow soldier.
Murray’s Army Regulation 15-6 investigation is separate from an independent review of Fort Hood that began in August and is looking at the command climate and the surrounding city of Killeen.
Murray’s investigation will involve “a comprehensive look” at the command’s actions following Guillen’s April 22 disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her remains months later, said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.
The investigation will assess “all of the actions taken and every echelon of the command,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, who stressed that so far no one has been relieved as part of the leadership change.
Maj. Gen. John B. Richardson IV will become the acting senior commander of Fort Hood, as well as be the deputy commanding general for operations of III Corps, beginning Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who has been in charge of Fort Hood during the ordeal, was previously slated to go to Fort Bliss, near El Paso, to take the helm of the 1st Armored Division.
Instead, he will remain at Fort Hood “to assist with the reintegration of III Corps” as its soldiers return from their mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, an Army headquarters statement reads.
“Essentially, he’s sliding over,” said McConville. The adjustment shouldn’t be read as a punishment, according to the Army chief of staff.
“We have an investigation ongoing at Fort Hood, and we want to make sure the investigation is complete before we move the officer,” McConville added. “This is something we do all the time with officers that may be involved in some type of investigation. We want to make sure that we understand what happened and then we can make the appropriate decision on their future.”
With Efflandt remaining at Fort Hood, the Army will announce the name of a new commander for the 1st Armored Division in the coming days, according to officials.
Eight soldiers have died on or near Fort Hood this year. Five of those deaths have been publicly linked to foul play.
An Army Forces Command inspector general team recently found that 18 out of 52 women surveyed on Fort Hood, about one-third, reported being sexually harassed.
FORSCOM’s review was sparked by sexual harassment allegations that arose following Guillen’s disappearance. Her family said she was afraid to report the incidents for fear of reprisal.
Those violent crime trends, “coupled with that survey,” concerned the Army, said McCarthy. “The numbers are bad and we need to make some adjustments.”
Richardson, the new acting senior commander of Fort Hood, previously served as FORSCOM’s director of operations and was already selected in March to serve as the next deputy commanding general for III Corps.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.