FORT HOOD, Texas — Mayra Guillen, the sister of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, expressed regret on Twitter shortly after the U.S. Army confirmed the Fort Hood soldier was sexually harassed prior to her disappearance and death on Friday.
The confirmation was part of the findings in an investigation into the actions of the Fort Hood chain-of-command regarding Guillen's case.
"Now I understand when you told me the Army wasn't what it seemed," Mayra Guillen tweeted minutes after the findings were released. "I'm so sorry I couldn't save you. I'm so sorry you had to go through so much. I just can't understand why. I'm sorry Vanessa... the fact that I couldn't protect you like when we were little."
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Gen. John Murray, the commanding general of Army Futures Command, led the investigation, known as 15-6. It is separate from the Independent Review of Fort Hood conducted by a five-member civilian panel that examined the climate and culture on post and the surrounding community.
The investigation involved interviewing 151 witnesses, looking over 6,000 emails and analyzing over 11,500 pages of documents.
Below are the findings of the investigation.
Guillen was killed April 22 on post by Robinson, according to a FBI criminal complaint. Robinson, with the help of his girlfriend Cecily Aguilar, dismembered Guillen's body and buried the remains near the Leon River in Bell County, the complaint alleges.
Guillen's remains were found June 30 after weeks of protests and calls for justice by Guillen's family, supporters and lawmakers.
Robinson shot and killed himself on the morning of July 1.
Aguilar was indicted July 14 on charges of conspiracy to destroy records, documents, or other objects and two counts of destroying records, documents, or other objects. She is awaiting a trial in the McLennan County jail.
Aguilar's defense attorney Lewis Gainor filed a motion to dismiss the charges Tuesday. A hearing for that motion has not been set.
Guillen was sexually harassed
According to the findings, Guillen was sexually harassed twice -- at least once by her supervisor in late Summer 2019.
Guillen was in her troop orderly room when one of her supervisors made a sexual comment toward her. After Guillen told another supervisor and soldier about the incident, the two reported it to her unit leadership between September and October 2019.
Though her leadership deemed the supervisor who made the comments unprofessional and was aware how the supervisor created a hostile and intimidating environment for Guillen afterward, her leadership "failed to initiate an investigation," the findings say.
The Army 15-6 investigation found that these incidents of sexual harassment weren't related to her murder, however.
Guillen was also not sexually harassed by her alleged killer, Spc. Aaron Robinson, the findings say. Instead, he reported sexually harassed another female soldier, the findings say.
Shortly after the findings were released, Mayra Guillen tweeted the following statement:
"Last year, the base did their own Mickey Mouse investigation, and tried to allege Vanessa Guillen wasn't sexually harassed -- and I called them out on it," Natalie Khawam, the Guillen family attorney tweeted shortly after the the findings were released.
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Immediate response to her disappearance
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the way the Army operated from day-to-day and only allowed limited face-to-face interactions for soldiers who had duties that were deemed "mission essential."
Guillen, whose work as a small arms/artillery repairer, was deemed essential and she was allowed to work in the 3rd Calvary Regiment's arms room, the investigation said.
When it came to her disappearance, the investigation revealed Guillen's unit responded immediately and provided all available resources the day she went missing on April 22, 2020.
On April 22, 2020, Guillen arrived at the first arms room around 10 a.m. to begin work. Nearby, Robinson was in the second arms room.
Guillen went to the second arms room to validate a serial number and made her last known contact to a supervisor via text around 10:30 a.m. about a machine gun's serial number, according to the investigation.
Throughout the day, soldiers tried contacting and locating Guillen, but to no avail, the investigation found.
Around 8 p.m., several of her close peers became alarmed. A Staff 3 Duty Officer was notified about Guillen's "loss of accountability" by 10 p.m.
Then, six soldiers started searching for her from 10:15 p.m. until 2:25 a.m. They resumed by 6:30 a.m. the next day. By 7:30 a.m., senior leadership became involved in the search, the investigation found.
"The Squadron and Regimental leadership immediately sensed the suspicious nature of SPC Guillén’s disappearance because of her reputation as a good Soldier and the odd circumstances surrounding SPC Guillén leaving her debit card, military ID card, and keys in the arms room," the investigation described.
On April 24, the CID took over the case. Due to the "unusual" circumstances of her disappearance, she was deemed a "missing Soldier" and the search continued, the investigation said.
Thousands of soldiers, dog teams and air searches by helicopter and drones were used in the search for Guillen, the findings say. Search efforts also later expanded to include civilian law enforcement agencies and private groups.
The 15-6 investigation does not include alleged criminal misconduct connected to the disappearance and death of Guillen. Instead, the FBI, USACIDC and law enforcement directed by the United States Attorney's office is investigating this matter.
Lack of transparency to news media, community and Guillen's family
Officials at Fort Hood were criticized over their lack-of-information and transparency regarding Guillen's disappearance.
Part of this was due to reluctance of engaging with the news media and addressing inaccurate information, as well as being "ill-prepared," the investigation said.
"This reluctance was driven by a firm belief that the command should prioritize the protection of the integrity of the investigation over command engagement with the media," the investigation said.
Additionally, the Public Affairs Office and the CID Public Affairs office was "ill-staffed, ill-trained and ill-prepared" during this time, the investigation said.
These factors caused officials to "fail to react appropriately," as well as prohibit them from being transparent and informing the public in a timely manner.
On June 29, it was discovered that Fort Hood developed a media communications strategy at this point. But by this time, "Fort Hood had lost the trust of the Guillen family, the surrounding community and the Nation," the investigation concluded.
Lack of sexual harassment/sexual assault prevention training
Guillen's regiment reportedly did not have the proper training when it came to the Army's SHARP program, which emphasizes the response and prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Her leadership was also not properly involved in the program.
Actions taken per investigation findings
As a result of the investigation:
- Accountability actions have been initiated against members of Guillen's chain-of-command from junior through senior leaders
- Five current or former leaders in the 3rd Cavalry Regiment were relieved.
- Further action was taken against eight additional officers and non-commission officers (seven received General Officer Memorandums of Reprimand while one was relieved.)
These actions are in addition to the previously announced reliefs of Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp.
Guillen's family and attorney have led the charge in getting the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act passed in Washington, D.C. It would allow members of the military who were sexually assaulted or harassed to report the allegations outside their chain of command.
Follow all 6 News' coverage on Vanessa Guillen here.
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