FORT HOOD, Texas — Sen. John Cornyn said it was clear changes needed to be made at Fort Hood to "better safeguard the soldiers stationed there" in a letter he sent to Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.
Cornyn sent the letter as the search continued for Sgt. Elder Fernandes, who was last seen Aug. 17.
Fernandes was reported missing to police Aug. 19, according to Killeen police. KPD said he was last seen by his staff sergeant when he dropped him off at his residence in the 2700 block of Woodlands Dr.
Fort Hood said they did not suspect foul play in his disappearance but they were concerned for his welfare.
“Soldier safety is rightfully the Army's top priority, and it is clear that changes must be made to Fort Hood in order to better safeguard the soldiers stationed there," wrote Cornyn. "Our brave men and women go to work every day to defend our nation, and our nation owes it to them to take every measure required to protect them.”
Fernandes is among several soldiers who went missing in the past several months. The others included Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, Pfc. Gregory Morales and Pfc. Brandon Rosecrans. All three of them were found dead in Bell County. Guillen was killed on post April 22. Morales' remains were found behind a neighborhood in Killeen in June. He disappeared in August, 2019. His death remained under investigation but foul play was suspected. Rosecrans was shot and killed in Harker Heights.
McCarthy announced the creation of an independent panel on July 30 to review the command climate on Fort Hood and in the surrounding community.
"I fully support the recent establishment of an independent commission to investigate the root causes of these issues, and I am committed to working with you to rapidly address the commission's upcoming findings," wrote Cornyn."
Cornyn said once the commission released its findings he would work with MCarthy to "ensure the Army rapidly develops a strategy to address security concerns at Fort Hood."
Full text of the letter:
Dear Secretary McCarthy:
I write to express my deep concern regarding the frequency with which soldiers stationed at Fort Hood have died, disappeared, or fallen victim to criminal acts over the course of the last several months. Also troubling is that the rate at Fort Hood seems to be higher than at other Army installations in our country and abroad. I fully support the recent establishment of an independent commission to investigate the root causes of these issues, and I am committed to working with you to rapidly address the commission's upcoming findings. Soldier safety is rightfully the Army's top priority, and it is clear that changes must be made to Fort Hood in order to better safeguard the soldiers stationed there. Our brave men and women go to work every day to defend our nation, and our nation owes it to them to take every measure required to protect them.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on these issues following your August 6, 2020, sensing session at Fort Hood, and I appreciate your direct involvement and urgency in ensuring the safety of the brave men and women stationed at Fort Hood. Your office has been responsive to myself and my staff throughout the multiple investigations at Fort Hood this year, and through our conversations I know you share my belief that the Army has a duty to both rapidly respond to the findings of the independent commission once they are released as well as promptly complete and implement the findings from its own investigations into the recent tragedies. In the meantime, it is clear that more resources must be devoted to the safety of our servicemembers at Fort Hood in order to improve their safety while awaiting the findings of the investigations. Following the release of the findings, I look forward to working with you to ensure the Army rapidly develops a strategy to address security concerns at Fort Hood and that Congress provides the resources necessary for its implementation. A loss of even a single soldier is an unacceptable tragedy, and the painful events at Fort Hood this year have raised urgent concerns that our nation must address. Thank you for your leadership and attention to this issue.