Skeletal remains discovered at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Houston

News


Sig Christenson

San Antonio Express-News

Dec. 29—The Air Force said Monday that partial skeletal remains of a person were found near Salado Creek over the weekend at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.

The remains were first seen Sunday evening in the northeast part of the post, not far from Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. The creek runs through the base.

Air Force officials said no one is missing from any of the services at the Joint Base, but offered few details on the body that was found, including whether it was male or female.

“It’s too premature at this time, and they were partial remains,” said Maj. Kim Bender, a JBSA spokeswoman.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations didn’t say if personal effects or clothing were found with the skeleton, and that it was too early to say if the person had died recently. It started an investigation Monday morning. The Air Force is in charge of the joint base’s security and police organizations.

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Just how a body would show up on the Fort Sam’s grounds isn’t clear. The post, like two other joint bases in the area — Randolph and Lackland — is gated and closed to the public.

While the Air Force said it was working with San Antonio-area police agencies, there was no word from local law enforcement about whether the person may be connected with a Bexar County missing person’s case.

Air Force Security Forces personnel cordoned off the area after receiving a report by people walking on the grounds.

The Air Force said there’s no danger to JBSA residents or others in the community.

The problem of missing troops who were later found dead at bases around the country isn’t new. It became a hot issue earlier this year in Central Texas following the mysterious disappearance of Spc. Vanessa Guillén, 20, of Houston.

Guillén disappeared last April, triggering a search of the greater Killeen area and raising alarm over other soldiers who had vanished from the post but had yet to be heard from again. Her mother accused the Army of not moving quickly enough to find her daughter, and top Army leaders have since conceded they failed both the young soldier and her family.

As volunteers searched for Guillén during the third week of June, Fort Hood reported that 74 GIs had been listed as having gone AWOL so far that year. Of that group, 53 had returned to duty. Some, however, had been found dead.

Guillén was last seen between around noontime April 22 in the parking lot of her 3rd Cavalry Regiment’s engineer squadron headquarters. Her car keys, barracks room key, ID card and wallet were found in an armory room where she had worked earlier in the day.

Guillén, who had told family she was being sexually harassed, was found dead two months later.

Authorities say Spc. Aaron David Robinson bludgeoned Guillén to death with a hammer and allege that his girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, helped him dismember and bury Guillén. Robinson shot himself to death as law enforcement confronted him in Killeen.

Aguilar has been jailed on federal charges.

The controversy led to a housecleaning at Fort Hood. The Army removed or suspended 14 leaders at the post, home to the 1st Cavalry Division, from the corps command to the squad level. Those relieved of command included Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was the post’s acting commander at the time Guillén vanished.

The action came after an independent investigation found a “deficient climate” that raised risks for female soldiers at the post. The panel, which included former Bexar County Veterans Service Officer Queta Rodriguez, issued nine findings and 70 recommendations.

The report said Fort Hood’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, known as SHARP, was so ineffective, it “resulted in a pervasive lack of confidence, fear of retaliation, and significant underreporting of cases, particularly within the enlisted ranks,” a summary stated.

The Army accepted all of the panel’s recommendations.

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