The United States Army has fired or suspended 14 officers and enlisted soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, in what is called "chronic failures of leadership" that contributed to widespread violence, including murder, sexual assault and harassment.
The public has known about the problems at Fort Hood for years, as each case of crime occurred. The most recent egregious act was the bludgeoning death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen earlier this year. Over the last year, at least 25 soldiers died from accidents, homicides or suicide.
There will be investigations into how the base environment and culture could have gone so far off the rails. These are the responsibility of leadership, and the first correct step is to remove the leaders who have either contributed to the problems or failed to reduce the problems.
For reference, Fort Hood is a huge Army installation. In size, it covers 214,000 acres (over half the size of Lake County) and has roughly 54,000 soldiers and civilians assigned there. So making substantive change to an installation that big will take time, money and focus.
That's where leadership comes in. While poor leaders allow the culture of an organization go awry, good leaders can restore it. The new leadership team must make the change a priority, then press it into the next level of commanders, who will do the same to their reports. Most of the policies are already in place, and it needs to be a relentless focus on compliance to turn the base around.
The whole Army, as well as other service branches, will be looking very carefully at Fort Hood. There are problems at other branches and bases that will also need to be addressed.
Success at Fort Hood will be critical to the entire armed forces. Success there will help in morale, readiness, recruitment and retention. We hope positive changes will take place and that those changes can go beyond this base to others throughout the system.
-- Jon M. Hunter