Army officials on Tuesday said that the body of a Fort Hood soldier was found near the Texas army post, marking the third time in a month that a Fort Hood soldier died under unnatural circumstances drawing the attention of Congress.
Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, a Filipino American, was found unresponsive July 17 in the vicinity of Stillhouse Hollow Lake, according to Fort Hood officials. Stillhouse Hollow Lake is a reservoir about 20 miles from Fort Hood and managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Fort Worth District. He failed to show up for duty July 16.
A preliminary autopsy said Morta likely died from drowning.
“The Black Knight family is truly heartbroken by the tragic loss of Private Mejhor Morta,” said Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, commander of 1st Brigade 5th Cavalry. Regiment. “I would like to send my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and loved ones.”
News of Morta’s death comes weeks after the body of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen was found near the Leon River, north of Austin. She had been missing since April. Officials say Guillen was killed at the base by a fellow soldier who then hid her remains. The main suspect in that case, Aaron David Robinson, killed himself as law enforcement was closing in.
In late June, military and civilian law enforcement agents also found the skeletal remains of another Fort Hood soldier, Pvt. Gregory Scott Morales, 24, in a field in nearby Killeen. Investigators are treating his case as a homicide.
Since January, seven soldiers have died of unnatural causes at the huge military installation.
Even before Morta’s body was found, the U.S. Army Public Affairs announced Friday that the Secretary of the Army has directed an independent, comprehensive review of the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, as well as the surrounding military community.
The Army says that it will hire four “highly qualified expert” civilian consultants that will form a panel and spend an estimated five to ten days at Fort Hood.
“The purpose of this independent review is to determine whether the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, and the surrounding military community, reflects Army values, including respect, inclusiveness, and workplaces free from sexual harassment,” the Army said in a press release.
The announcement comes after U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia signed a letter with 87 other Congressional members in support of U.S Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Rep. Jackie Speier calling for an independent investigation by the Department of Defense into the circumstances surrounding Guillen’s death including allegations of sexual harassment.
Morta, of Pensacola, Florida, entered the Army in September 2019 as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic. Since May 2020, he had been assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, according to a statement from Fort Hood. Morta’s awards and decorations include the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
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