Fort Hood says soldier safety is top priority: 'We have nothing to hide here'

KILLEEN, Texas (KTRK) -- Fort Hood leaders vowed to change the atmosphere on base following Vanessa Guillen's horrific murder.

They spoke with ABC13 on Thursday about the progress being made to foster a better culture.

Colonel Myles Caggins said they are dedicated to putting people first, which includes the safety and well-being of its soldiers. His interview with Eyewitness News proved to be a stark change in the installation's messaging and engagement with media.

For months, representatives declined multiple interview requests and refused to answer specific questions from ABC13.

"We have nothing to hide here," said Caggins. "Our doors are open."

He said they're moving forward with transparency.

"One of the lessons we've learned is that we've got to talk," said Caggins. "There are many great things that are happening here. When we don't talk, there are other people who fill that void. They set the narrative agenda. We're here about the truth and the facts."

Caggins said Fort Hood remains "The Great Place" where they implemented the "People First" initiative in November 2020.

The program places an emphasis on leaders getting to know their soldiers, building trust and creating an environment where soldiers know how to and feel comfortable reporting abuse. Caggins said they've dedicated countless hours to training for the 38,000 soldiers stationed at Fort Hood.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, outside of a federal courthouse in Waco, ABC13 met Private First Class Josh Witte.

EMBED More News Videos

A Fort Hood solider told ABC13 "there's no healing around here" after the death of Vanessa Guillen.



He described himself as friendly with Vanessa Guillen. He showed up to support her family at a crucial court hearing.

READ MORE: Judge denies motion to toss confession in Cecily Aguilar trial
EMBED More News Videos

A Texas judge handed down an important ruling in the criminal case tied to the killing of U.S. Army specialist Vanessa Guillen. ABC13 reporter Steve Campion has followed this case from the beginning and shows you the latest on the ruling on a motion by the only surviving suspect in this case.



He said her killing did change the atmosphere on base. A year later, he said there still remains plenty of work.

"It was never 'People First' as the first priority until after this," said Witte.

When asked about how it is on base, Witte said he recently spoke with a leader.

"I actually brought it up to my chaplain [Tuesday,]" he said. "He kind of took a step back and tried to dodge and avoid the questions. As they describe it, they're trying to turn a corner ... but you can't turn a corner without answers first."

Witte said he hopes change does come but seemed hesitant about it.

"There's no healing going around," said Witte. "My thoughts on the Army ... they're kind of saying, 'The past is the past.'"

COVERAGE ON VANESSA GUILLEN INVESTIGATION:


For updates on the Vanessa Guillen case, follow Steve Campion on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.