FORT HOOD, Texas -- Focusing on the long road ahead, Lt. Gen. Pat White and Command Sgt. Maj. Cliff Burgoyne, III Corps and Fort Hood command team, addressed 1,800 junior-enlisted Soldiers regarding the findings of the independent review committee’s investigation into the installation’s command climate here at Hood Stadium Dec. 8.
“I got that report yesterday. I got to read it before it got released today and I will tell you, in my 33 years of service, that was the biggest gut punch I’ve ever received,” White said to the assembled, mask-wearing Soldiers. “We’ve got a problem we’ve got to fix, but a three-star general can’t fix it on his own. I absolutely need you to be on the team.”
In what White described as a “historically unprecedented look” at Fort Hood, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy announced that 14 officers and noncommissioned officer were relieved or suspended from their positions.
The commander earlier explained during a press conference that he has directed Operation People First, an initiative designed to rebuild trust through action, to be a sustained effort to affect permanent change across the force.
Operation People First launched on Oct. 13 and is a Corps-wide initiative for Soldiers at Fort Hood; Fort Bliss; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Riley, Kansas; and other III Corps units.
“It’s a recognition that at the center of everything we do is for our people and they are our greatest strength. They are our most valuable asset,” White said. “By next September, we will have turned over 60% of the formation here. It’s going to be all new Soldiers and leaders here. So we’re going to do this again until I’m assured that we’re on a good path.”
The general said they will know if Operation People First is working because they will see it through measurable changes in reenlistments, sexual assault and sexual harassment reporting, as well as case numbers.
“I think, on the other side of how do we know it’s working, is the buy-in from Soldiers and families,” the general explained. “Just talking to the Soldiers and families and ensuring that what we’re trying to deliver is something that, one, they understand and, two, they accept.”
During the 103-day investigation into the Fort Hood command climate, the committee looked into whether the installation reflected the Army’s values, safety, respect, inclusiveness and a commitment to diversity, as well as a closer look into the sexual harassment and sexual assault cases on base. The committee surveyed 31,612 Soldiers and interviewed 647 Soldiers. McCarthy said the panel provided nine findings and 70 recommendations in its report.
McCarthy said he has decided to accept the findings and has created a People First Task Force to develop a plan to tackle the issues head-on. He stated that the task force’s strategies will be implemented Army-wide by March 2021.
“While the independent review focused on the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, the findings contained in the committee’s report impact the entire Army of more than one million soldiers, 247,000 civilians, and their families,” he added. “The People First Task Force will analyze the findings and 70 recommendations in the report, develop a plan to address the issues identified by the committee, and reevaluate current policy and programs.”
McCarthy said he has also signed a new missing Soldier policy, which is meant to assist in tracking and finding missing Soldiers, clarifying expectations and responsibilities of unit commanders and law enforcement. The new policy focuses on the first 48 hours a Soldier is missing, supporting the missing Soldiers’ families and is expected to help aid in identifying whether the absence is voluntary, before ruling it absent without leave.
During his briefing with Soldiers at Hood Stadium, White told the troops that he has given all the chain of commands on the installation 36 hours to release the report to their Soldiers.
Burgoyne said the Soldiers in grades E-1 to E-4 comprise approximately half the troops on Fort Hood, so it will be up to them to help make the change. He told the Soldiers in the stadium to look to their left and right, noting it will take all of them to change the climate culture at Fort Hood.
“Today was not a good, historic day here at Fort Hood. It was not a good, historic day for the Army, but it’s something that’s needed and we’re moving out from it and we’ve got to move past this,” Burgoyne said. “We can’t move on without you, without you giving us everything you have every day – paying attention to detail, being inquisitive … ask questions and demand answers because we can’t do this without you.”
A copy of the report can be found at https://www.army.mil/forthoodreview.