Oversight and Armed Services Subcommittees Open Investigation Into Recent Servicemember Deaths at Fort Hood

Sep 8, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Sep. 8, 2020)—Today, Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on National Security, and Rep. Jackie Speier, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Military Personnel, sent a letter to Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy requesting documents and information after the recent deaths of soldiers stationed at Fort Hood.

 

“By mutual agreement, the Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security and the Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel are jointly investigating whether an alarming pattern of recent tragedies at Fort Hood, Texas, may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command,” the Chairs wrote.  “As Members of Congress, it is our solemn responsibility to provide a full accounting of the conditions and circumstances that may have contributed to the recent disappearances and deaths of U.S. Army personnel at Fort Hood.  Where appropriate, we intend to seek justice on behalf of those in uniform, and their families, who may have been failed by a military system and culture that was ultimately responsible for their care and protection.”

 

According to the Army, between 2014 and 2019, there were an average of 129 felonies committed annually at Fort Hood, including cases of homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assault. 

 

This year alone, three U.S. servicemembers—Specialist Vanessa Guillen, Private Mejhor Morta, and Sergeant Elder Fernandes—all went missing from Fort Hood and were later found deceased.  The remains of a fourth soldier, Private Gregory Wedel-Morales, were discovered in June nearly a year after he went missing in August 2019.  While foul play is suspected in the deaths of Guillen and Wedel-Morales, investigations into the circumstances of the deaths of Fernandes and Morta remain ongoing.  

 

In addition, the recent deaths of Private First Class Brandon Scott Rosecrans, Specialist Freddy Delacruz Jr., and Specialist Shelby Tyler Jones are all being investigated as homicides.

 

Disturbingly, both Specialist Guillen and Sergeant Fernandes were allegedly sexually abused or harassed prior to their deaths. 

 

“While the Army has directed an independent review of Fort Hood, Congressional oversight is necessary to determine whether base leadership—by omission or commission— has allowed or enabled a culture to exist that undermines the values and traditions of the U.S. Army,” the Chairs wrote.

 

The Chairs requested the Army provide the requested documents by October 2, 2020.

 

Click here to read today’s letter.

116th Congress