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A bipartisan group of senators is demanding a “complete, thorough and impartial investigation” into the death of a young female soldier at Fort Hood last month, expressing concerns about ongoing harassment problems at the Army post.
Pvt. Ana Basaldua Ruiz, 20, was found dead at the Texas installation on March 13. Army officials have said that no foul play was evident when her body was found, but they have publicly acknowledged that Ruiz had complained about sexual harassment by peers and a superior officer before her death.
Fort Hood officials said they are conducting a full investigation into the incident.
In a letter to the post commander Lt. Gen. Sean Bernabe, the group of lawmakers decried the “permissive environment” regarding sexual harassment at the base and demanded that investigators look into not only Ruiz’ death but the ongoing problems among soldiers stationed there.
“We expect Fort Hood to take this case very seriously,” senators wrote. “We expect you to provide all necessary resources to secure justice for Ana and to ensure that her death is the last of its kind.”
Fort Hood leadership has come under national scrutiny since the death of Spc. Vanessa Guillén at the Army site in April 2020. A fellow soldier murdered Guillén and later hid her remains with the help of his girlfriend.
Guillén similarly had complained of sexual harassment and abuse at the base. An independent committee released a report in November 2020 criticizing sexual harassment prevention and response programs there as “ineffective.”
In light of the recent case, senators wrote, Fort Hood officials have again “failed the young women who stand up to serve our country and entrust themselves to the Army’s care”.
The group of lawmakers includes Senate Armed Services Committee members Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also joined in the letter.
Fort Hood officials have not announced an expected completion date for their investigation.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.