The family of Spc. Vanessa Guillen visited Fort Hood, Texas, on Tuesday to see design concepts and survey the proposed site of a memorial gate that will be named in Guillen’s honor, according to the central Texas installation.
Guillen, a member of 3rd Cavalry Regiment, went missing April 22, sparking an extensive search that came to an end June 30, when her remains were discovered near the Leon River. Prosecutors now say Guillen was killed by a fellow soldier in an armory on post.
During the Tuesday visit, Guillen’s family met with the III Corps and Fort Hood commander, Lt. Gen. Pat White, and deputy commander, Maj. Gen. John Richardson.
“One of the reasons we invited the Guillén family today was to discuss and review design concepts and survey a proposed site of a gate we plan to name in Vanessa’s honor," White said in a statement. "Their input is important for our final design that will come to fruition over the next few months.”
The gate will lead to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment area, where thousands of people walk each day, and “will serve as a reminder to take care of each other and inspire the next generation of soldiers and the surrounding community,” White said.
Guillen’s death sparked a public outcry and triggered a number of investigations, including an independent review of the command climate at Fort Hood that examined claims of discrimination, harassment and assault.
Fort Hood also recently announced the start of a year-long effort to stem sexual assault and harassment, extremism, racism and suicides. Not all leaders at the Texas post “properly know their soldiers,” they do not always take appropriate action when needed and do not always hold others accountable, according to an Army release.
“Vanessa’s life was a catalyst for us to implement action to improve trust, discipline, and teamwork across our formations,” White added. “All of our 38,000 soldiers at Fort Hood are important, and, like Specialist Guillén each volunteered to serve our nation. They deserve our best leadership.”
Guillen’s death also spotlighted issues with the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, or SHARP, and triggered the Government Accountability Office to review SHARP programs across the force this fall.
Guillen’s family alleged that she faced sexual harassment prior to her death, but did not report it for fear of reprisal. After those allegations came out, Army Forces Command sent a team to specifically review Fort Hood’s SHARP program.
A written survey distributed to 225 soldiers from 12 battalions in six brigades on Fort Hood showed that roughly 90 percent of soldiers have “high trust” in their leadership and approximately 86 percent hold a “high willingness” to report incidents to SHARP offices if they arise, according to Col. Patrick Wempe, the FORSCOM inspector general, who discussed the review with Congress in late July.
However, the review team also found that 18 out of 52 women surveyed on Fort Hood, about one-third, reported being sexually harassed. That number concerned lawmakers and prompted questions about whether the standards of success for SHARP programs need to be changed.
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.