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Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

Secretary of Army says Fort Hood review shows work still needed to regain soldiers' trust in sexual harassment, assault prevention program

Secretary Ryan McCarthy said a report from a five member civilian panel would be released with recommendations on Dec. 8.

FORT HOOD, Texas — Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said his review of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee's report showed "significant work" needed to be done to improve the way the Army handles sexual harassment and assault.

McCarthy released a video statement Wednesday about the report, the findings of which he said would be released Dec. 8 along "with an action plan to address the recommendations."

McCarthy announced in July a five member panel of civilians would review Fort Hood's command climate and culture to determine if it reflected the Army's values, including safety, respect, inclusiveness, and a commitment to diversity, and workplaces and communities free from sexual harassment.

"My preliminary review of the report, recent cases, and recent media coverage, have hardened my belief that the Army’s SHARP (Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention ) program hasn’t achieved its mandate to eliminate sexual assaults and sexual harassment by creating a climate that respects the dignity of every member of the Army family," said McCarthy.

The investigation was started in the wake of the disappearance and death of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen. 

A criminal complaint found Spc. Aaron Robinson killed Guillen April 22 on post, then with the help of his girlfriend Cecily Aguilar, dismembered her body and buried the remains near the Leon River in Bell County.

Guillen's remains were not found until June 30. Robinson killed himself the next day as Killeen police were approaching him.

Aguilar was arrested and charged with conspiracy to tamper with evidence. Her trial was set for Jan. 19.

Guillen's family said she told them she was sexually harassed but she did not report it to her superiors for fear of retaliation.

RELATED: Bill honoring Vanessa Guillen introduced in Washington D.C. Wednesday

"Leaders, regardless of rank, are accountable for what happens in their units and must have the courage to speak up and intervene when they recognize actions that bring harm to our Soldiers and to the integrity of our institution," McCarthy said. "If we do not have the trust of America – nothing else matters."

Guillen's family, along with their attorney Natalie Khawam, lobbied for the creation of the I Am Vanessa Guillen bill. It would allow soldiers to report sexual harassment and assault to a third party outside their chain of command.