The Case Of Vanessa Guillen, Examined By A Ft. Hood Soldier

Sergey Podlesnykh/Contributing Writer

On April 22, Private First Class Vanessa Guillen mysteriously disappeared from the military base of Ft. Hood, TX after being called in on her day off. Then, on June 30, her body remains were discovered in Belton, TX, launching a chain of events that resulted in the suicide of the main suspect and detainment of one other person of interest. 

Guillen had shown up at her armory after being called in, and vanished shortly after. She was last seen in the parking lot near her place of work, and left behind her military ID, wallet and barracks room and car keys in the armory she’d been at earlier in the day. This has created multiple theories and speculations of foul play. The Criminal Investigation Department has released little information due to the ongoing investigation, but disturbing facts concerning the shocking discovery in Belton have raised many more questions.

I recently returned to Miami after serving in Ft. Hood for three years. I didn’t know Vanessa personally as I had been assigned to a different unit—but am familiar with the installation’s footprint, as well as Ft. Hood’s common practices. I hope my input will help clarify some existing questions, and bring attention to what we should start asking. 

Wouldn’t the Army have video footage of the area Guillen was killed in? 

No cover-up here, just a sad fact: there is no video footage. Why? Because despite being one of the largest military bases in the U.S., Ft. Hood—also known as “The Great Place”—has very few security cameras, and those are mostly at major intersections. 

But wouldn’t it make sense to install more cameras? After all, every convenience store that sells gum uses closed-circuit televisions, and we’re talking about the beacon of military strength of the free world here. 

Apparently, Ft. Hood knows how to spend money without my input, as it paid a quarter of a million fine for non-compliance with Federal Regulations last year. Right now, the Army seems more concerned with introducing new uniforms for the second time in the last ten years, and the nation’s highest military minds are too busy establishing the Space Force as our newest military branch. No doubt, these are all noble causes to spend billions of taxpayers’ money on.

How come nobody saw or heard anything when it happened? 

We now know that Guillen was killed, suffering a head injury from a heavy hammer in the armory where she worked. The prime suspect who committed suicide was another soldier who had worked with her that day. 

I’ve never been in the particular armory where Guillen was killed, but I’ve been in many others. Most have a generic layout, consistent through different units and installations. Inside is a common area with doors to several other rooms—not only armory. 

Many people are often working nearby. Most offices have computers, often used by soldiers for training. Yes, between the COVID-19 measures and near-lunch timeline, the building could have been empty for a short while, but it’s rare for it to be empty for several hours at a time. People come in and out to say hello and stop by the offices to see what’s happening. 

What about the sounds of multiple hammer blows? The thud of a collapsing body? Did Guillen scream out of fear or pain? Did blood splatter all over the armory? The idea that the perpetrator acted almost Batman-like—without leaving a trace or making a sound—isn’t impossible, but too many “ifs,” “only ifs” and “maybes” would have had to fall just right for that scenario to make any sense. 

Why was  Guillen called in on her day off, and why wasn’t she in uniform?

In the Army, you can get called in any time, for no apparent reason—that’s the nature of the beast. Uniform requirements could be waived upon leadership discretion. 

We don’t know who called Guillen in. Officials claimed that it wasn’t the perpetrator, but didn’t provide a name. It was most likely a Non-Commissioned Officer who made that call, and this superior would have had to follow up with her in person. If she didn’t respond, the N.C.O. would have had to check that armory as her last known location. 

After Guillen was killed around lunchtime, her body remained in the armory until around 6:30 PM. If I come into a room and see a suspicious box that wasn’t there before, I ask questions. Here, it seems that somebody either didn’t do their job right, or chose to look the other way—both horrifying possibilities.

Why did the apprehension of the main suspect take so long? 

I don’t have an answer for that. In my experience, the Army is not too sensitive and does not have a habit of giving soldiers the benefit of the doubt. It is indeed suspicious that the likely perpetrator had been the main suspect from day one, but there were no charges or apprehension until her remains were discovered two months later. 

Units can be forced into mandatory urinalysis to determine possible drug abuse. Barracks can be inspected without prior notice to check for illegal substances, alcohol or weapons. Any soldier can be brought in front of the Commander to get the needed answers—including determination of their whereabouts or daily schedule. After “signing the dotted line” you become the government’s property. Your superiors can have leverage and authority over your life, greatly surpassing civilian norms of freedom. 

I find it hard to believe that a case with such publicity wasn’t a good enough motive for the chain of command or C.I.D. to find out the truth earlier. Maybe the publicity was enough to threaten to reveal some dirt under the Army’s shining armor.

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board or the U.S. Army. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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