During the meeting, the family of the deceased 20-year-old soldier and their representatives plan to discuss the #IAmVanessaGuillen bill they are proposing.
The legislation is intended to establish for service members an “independent, neutral, third-party agency to disclose and report any kind of sexual harassment and sexual assault,” Khawam said during a video call with Army Times last week.
Khawam compared the third-party investigative agency to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. The proposed agency would be able to investigate allegations and make recommendations to the military on how to deal with perpetrators of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Prior to her death, Guillen told members of her family that she faced repeated sexual harassment from a fellow soldier. Army CID agents investigating Guillen’s case said they have found no evidence she was sexually harassed, though Guillen’s family say she did not formally report the allegations due to fear of reprisal.
Guillen’s unit, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, began its own investigation into the allegations in mid-June and appointed a senior investigation officer to helm the inquiry, Col. Ralph Overland, the regiment’s commander, has said.
Nearly 90 lawmakers have also started to push for acting Defense Department Inspector General Sean O’Donnell to begin an independent probe into the Army’s handling of the disappearance, and now alleged killing, of Guillen.
However, Khawam said last week during the video call that the Guillen family wants Congress to directly intervene without relying on Pentagon personnel.
“I contacted the DoD IG’s office early on … and that was prior to us finding her remains and prior to this murder,” said Khawam. “At this point, we are not looking for the DoD to do its own investigation of the DoD. We are looking for a congressional investigation.”
Fort Hood will also be the subject of an independent command climate review headed by Army Undersecretary James McPherson.
The search for Guillen and the sexual harassment allegations her family brought forth sparked other service members and veterans, alleged victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault, to come forward over social media using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen to share their stories.
Army senior leaders also heard directly from personnel serving at Hood about the need to examine the command.
“There were concerns raised not just with sexual harassment, but other aspects as well, with regard to the greater community of Fort Hood and the surrounding community — raised by not only the Guillen family, but by the Hispanic community and Congress as well,” McPherson told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.
On July 30, a day after their planned meeting with Trump, the Guillen family expects to hold a protest in Washington, D.C., as well. The family has worked closely with D.C. politicians, including Rep. Sylvia García, D-Texas, in navigating the military bureaucracy and lobbying for action from the nation’s capital.
Guillen was allegedly killed by Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, inside an armory on Fort Hood. He killed her during a duty day and then enlisted the help of his girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, in disposing of the remains, according to court records.
The two worked together to burn the body, dismember it, mix the parts with concrete and bury the remains in three holes near the Leon River, about 20 miles from post.
Aguilar, who is a 22-year-old Killeen resident, was denied bail and pleaded not guilty to all three felony counts against her related to disposing of the remains.
Robinson, who allegedly bludgeoned Guillen to death with a hammer, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound when Killeen police officers attempted to arrest him.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.