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Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

Army names civilian panel to lead review of Fort Hood command climate

The Secretary of the Army said the panel will focus on the command climate on Fort Hood.

FORT HOOD, Texas — Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy announced the five civilians who will be part of an independent review of Fort Hood, Thursday.

The purpose of review is to determine whether the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, and the surrounding military community, reflects the Army's values, including safety, respect, inclusiveness, and a commitment to diversity, and workplaces and communities free from sexual harassment, McCarthy said.

The announcement came the same day Vanessa Guillen's family, attorney and supporters marched to the White House in support of the #IAmVanessaGuillen bill.

Guillen was killed on post April 22. Her family claimed she was being sexually harassed but Fort Hood investigators found no evidence supporting the claim.

The bill will allow members of the military to report sexual harassment and assault confidentially to a third party outside the chain of command.

The panel will review historical data and conduct interviews with military members, civilians and members of the local community. McCarthy said the panel will be assisted by a brigadier general and a staff for administrative, logistical and media support.

"The Army is committed to taking care of our Soldiers, civilians, families, and Soldiers for life, and this independent review will explore the current command climate and culture at Fort Hood," McCarthy said.

The panel members are Chris Swecker, Jonathan Harmon, Carrie Ricci, Queta Rodriguez and Jack White.

"It's an honor for me to support our men and women, our sons and daughters in uniform, to ensure they live and work in environments where they feel safe and respected," Swecker said. "As a representative of the panel, I commit to providing a complete and thorough review of the command climate at Fort Hood and to follow the facts wherever they lead," 

The results, including the findings and recommendation of the review, will be submitted to James E. McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, and Gen. Joseph M. Martin, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, who will co-chair an implementation team to consider every recommendation and implement changes, as appropriate.

Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX-25), whose district includes Fort Hood, responded to the announcement later in the day, saying he supports the independent review.

“I support the Secretary of the Army’s announcement of an independent review of the climate and culture at Fort Hood. A failure to appropriately respond to this moment at the 'Great Place' would be a missed opportunity, particularly in light of the tragic and untimely death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen," Williams said in a release. "We must take deliberate action now and not promulgate a falsehood that bad actions can go unpunished."

Williams went on to say that soldiers should not fear for their lives on a U.S. military installation and that leaders should welcome the review as a way to improve the institution. 

“The Army is one of America’s last great institutions to still live by a set of values; loyalty, duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity, personal courage. No soldier should fear for his or her life on a U.S. military installation, such trepidation is the antithesis of building comradery and trust within a warfighting organization," he said. "Our Army leaders should welcome such a review, as improving the army team can only occur if we clearly understand the shortfalls that exist and the improvements necessary to take corrective action. I look forward to continuing my communication with the Department of the Army as this study is underway.”

Here are the backgrounds on each member of the panel:

Swecker has a solo law practice, "Swecker Law," in Charlotte, NC, and is of counsel for the Miller & Martin Law Firm. As a consultant, Swecker has conducted similar independent reviews, including for the NC State Highway Patrol, the NC State Bureau of Investigation, the Vogel Nuclear Power Plant, and the Winston Salem Police Department. Swecker served 24 years with the FBI before retiring as assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division. As an FBI inspector, he conducted inspection reviews of the leadership and all aspects of FBI Field Divisions, including Chicago, New Haven, New York, Milwaukee, Seattle, Boston and Honolulu. He earned a bachelor's degree from Appalachian State University, followed by a Juris Doctor from the Wake Forest University School of Law.

Harmon, chairman of McGuireWoods LLP, is a prominent trial lawyer who has represented Fortune 500 companies across the country. Harmon formerly led McGuireWoods' Business & Securities Litigation Department. His business litigation practice spans complex commercial, fraud, class-action, insurance fraud, complex business/civil tort, environmental, product liability, employment, construction, toxic tort, and federal or state protected whistleblower cases. Harmon is a 1987 graduate of United States Military Academy at West Point, and he received a Juris Doctor from the University of Texas School of Law in 1995.

Ricci, an assistant general counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has supervisory responsibility for a team of 30 attorneys and professional support staff that provide legal services to both the marketing and regulatory programs and the food safety mission areas of USDA. Prior to joining USDA, Ricci served as an assistant general counsel with the Department of Defense Education Activity, providing legal support to 14 school districts worldwide that service 87,000 children from kindergarten through 12th grade. Before her role with DoDEA, Ricci served nearly 22 years as an active-duty Army officer, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. Ricci is a graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Maryland School of Law.

Rodriguez, a regional director for FourBlock, was born and lives in Bexar County. Prior to joining FourBlock, a national nonprofit that helps veterans transition into civilian careers, Rodriguez served as a director of veterans services for Bexar County. She earned a bachelor's degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2001. She served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1991 to 2012 as an intelligence analyst and manpower operations officer. Her career experience also includes working as an operations manager at the Lorenzana Law Firm.

White, a partner at Fluet Huber + Hoang, has broad expertise in government investigations, discrimination claims, constitutional matters, securities claims, white collar matters, bankruptcies, as well as a number of other civil matters. He has also advised state and local law enforcement, social services, and education chief executives on public school safety issues. Before joining Fluet Huber + Hoang, White served as a law clerk at the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit on behalf of the Honorable Samuel A. Alito Jr., who was then a judge on that court. White joined Justice Alito for a second clerkship at the U. S. Supreme Court during the 2008-2009 term. White is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and served five years as an active-duty Army officer before transferring to the U.S. Army Reserve while attending Pepperdine University School of Law. White graduated magna cum laude and served as editor-in-chief of the Pepperdine Law Review.