- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Army two-star general who had been picked for a prestigious assignment as a division commander will instead remain in his current position at troubled Fort Hood, Army officials said Tuesday, while a new acting commander for the Texas base takes charge this week.

The move comes amid a series of embarrassments for the base this year -— including the on-post killing of Specialist Vanessa Guillen this spring — that has sparked congressional criticism and the formation of a civilian independent review panel that arrived at the fort just this week.

At least eight Fort Hood soldiers have died this year, five from foul play, according to military officials and media reports, at a base which is the equivalent of a small city about 60 miles from Austin. Soldiers assigned to the base were also arrested in a prostitution sting in March, and two more active-duty soldiers were implicated last month in child prostitution sting run by Killeen, Texas, police units.

Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt will stay at his current assignment as deputy commanding general for Fort Hood and “assist with the reintegration” of the corps when base commander Lt. Gen. Pat White, returns to Texas from the mission supporting U.S. forces battling the Islamic State terror group, the Army said.

On Wednesday, Maj. Gen. John B. Richardson IV, will formally take over as acting senior commander at Fort Hood. Gen. Efflandt had been serving as the acting base commander until this week.

The Army also announced Tuesday it was naming Gen. John Murray, head of the Army Futures Command and one of the service’s most senior commanders, to head its own probe on how Fort Hood commanders handled the Guillen case.

Spec. Guillen, 20, was fatally bludgeoned in April 2020 by another soldier on post who later took his life as police were about to arrest him. She also told family members that members of the military had sexually harassed her.

Just last month, the body of Sgt. Elder Fernandes was found along a set of railroad tracks in Temple -about 30 miles from the post. Police said his death did not appear to have been the result of foul play. He also reported being sexually assaulted by another Fort Hood soldier. After his death, investigators said they couldn’t substantiate his allegations.

Army officials portrayed the personnel moves as a way to maintain stability at the base.

“This previously scheduled change in leadership will enable continuity of command as III Corps returns from its role leading the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve,” Army officials said. Maj. Gen. Richardson, previously director of operations at U.S. Army Forces Command, was selected in March 2020 for the assignment.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told reporters Gen. Efflandt’s changed plans should not be read as a punishment, saying that, “essentially, he’s sliding over” to a different assignment.

But military analysts said the decision to rescind Gen. Efflandt’s assignment at Fort Bliss was likely to have negative consequences for future promotions.

Gen. McConville acknowledged the questions surrounding the command atmosphere at Fort Hood played a part in Tuesday’s moves.

“We have an investigation ongoing and we want to make sure the investigation is complete before we move the officer,” he said, according to an account in the Army Times.

“This is something we do all the time with officers who may be involved with an investigation. We want to make sure we know what happened before we know what we’ll do with their future.”

The Army statement said Gen. Murray has been tasked with combining several ongoing inquiries there into a “more complete and comprehensive” investigation that will delve into all the activities and levels of leadership.

His investigation is separate from the civilian independent review of Fort Hood that had been ordered by Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, officials said.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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