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Friends of soldier Ana Basaldua say she was harassed at Fort Hood by a sergeant and another soldier before she died

The Army said in a statement “any possible harassment will be addressed and investigated fully.” Basaldua had reported a superior, according to her friends, but he was not punished, and she was transferred to a different platoon. Another “abusive” soldier had also tried to choke her, they say she told them.

Two friends of soldier Ana Fernanda Basaldua, who was found dead this Monday in Fort Hood, told Noticias Telemundo of the alleged harassment she said she suffered since she was assigned to the Texan military base in early 2022. 

The friends point to a sergeant whom 20-year-old Basaldua had reported to her superiors, they say, but to no avail: he was not punished, while she was transferred to another platoon. They also mention another soldier, who was Basaldua’s colleague at the base.

Noticias Telemundo has sent several inquiries to the base but has received no response, beyond the Army's statement sent yesterday confirming the loss of Basaldua as a “tragedy” and indicating that it is “actively investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding her death.” 

[Hallan muerta a una soldado latina en Fort Hood que dijo a su madre que la acosaban: “Me contó que pasaban cosas fuertes”]

This Thursday, those responsible at the base sent another statement indicating that, “so far,” there is no evidence that the death of the soldier was due to a criminal act, thus reinforcing their first versions that it could be a suicide.

They added that any “information related to any possible harassment will be addressed and investigated fully” by the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division.

“He was jealous, he’d say things to her”

One of the people with whom Noticias Telemundo spoke, and who asked for her name to be withheld out of fear of reprisals, said she was the deceased soldier's best friend and also a private at the Fort Knox base in Tennessee. She recounted that the sergeant whom she points to for the alleged harassment, and whose identity she did not reveal, was helping Basaldua when she arrived, orienting her in her first months at Fort Hood. 

La soldado latina Ana Fernanda Basaldua Ruiz en una foto tomada en una salida a comer con amigos.
Private Ana Fernanda Basaldua Ruiz in a photo taken while having dinner with friends. Cortesía

“As time passed,” she explains, “Basa [the diminutive she affectionately knows Basaldua for] began to make friends and all that, he was getting annoyed, he was jealous, he said things to her, and well, Basa didn’t think that was right, first of all because he was older, but also, because he was a sergeant.” 

Based on what the soldier confided to her, the sergeant “would unexpectedly come to her room, knock on her door, text her asking why she was hanging out with people, saying she shouldn’t hang out with anyone other than him,” she said.

According to this testimony, Basaldua reported him to his superiors, but she was never informed that a formal investigation had been carried out: “She was telling her PSG, who is her platoon sergeant, what was happening. That’s when they called him to the office and didn’t take any [measures...], there was a discussion that remained between them.”

“She was afraid at first, she didn’t want any problems”

The base did decide to transfer Basaldua, who was serving as a combat engineer for the 1st Cavalry Division, from the second to the third platoon, according to her friend's testimony, who says she spoke with the soldier almost daily.

She also recounted that Basaldua told her she was afraid to report the harassment because of the possible consequences for a soldier newly arrived at the base (she had enlisted in the Army in July 2021 and was assigned to Fort Hood in December).

[Los 6 errores en el caso Vanessa Guillén: qué falló en Fort Hood]

“She was afraid at first, because she didn’t want to get into trouble or anything like that. But she reported him, and supposedly they were going to take away that sergeant’s rank, but they didn’t end up taking it. He continued there in the same company, the only thing they did was move Basa to a different platoon,” she explained. 

Basaldua was found dead in a maintenance bay at the military base; the officers who reported her death to her family told them they preliminarily consider it a suicide, and on Thursday, in its statement, the base said that “so far” there is no evidence to indicate that her death was due to criminal activity. 

The young woman was born and raised in the Mexican state of Michoacán. She became a naturalized citizen thanks to her father’s citizenship, who lives in Long Beach, California, and moved to the United States in 2020. Her mother lives in Michoacán with another daughter.

Her case joins a long list of deaths and violent acts in Fort Hood in recent years. Of these, the murder of soldier Vanessa Guillén in 2020 stands out, which uncovered a sexual harassment and abuse scandal in the Armed Forces. That year alone, 23 deaths were recorded at the base, which houses 36,500 soldiers.

The shadow of Vanessa Guillén’s death

Her friend, whom she met in August 2021 before they both undertook military training at Fort Leonard, Missouri, told Noticias Telemundo that after the murder of soldier Vanessa Guillén, who had also denounced harassment at Fort Hood in 2020, Basaldua said she did not want to go to that base: “None of that seemed right to her, but regardless, she had orders that had to be followed.”

“We talked all the time,” she recounted, “not only through regular messages, but also through Snapchat, Instagram, I mean, we told each other everything. She was my best friend. She told me everything that happened to her and I told her everything about me too.” 

La soldado latina Ana Fernanda Basaldua Ruiz en una fotografía compartida por un amigo.
Private Ana Fernanda Basaldua Ruiz in a photo shared by a friend.Cortesía

Basaldua’s platoon transfer occurred after an incident in which the sergeant who allegedly harassed her yelled at her “horribly” in front of other soldiers without reason, according to her account. “He was saying things to her in front of other people,” she explained, “and that’s really when they took action. About two months later they transferred her.” 

After Basaldua’s transfer, the sergeant moved to a military school for non-commissioned officers (NCO) within the base, according to her account, but the harassment did not stop: “She would tell me she didn’t know what else to do. Because she had already told them, she had already told her sergeant, she also told the commander, that’s supposed to be why they made the change. But even so, she was still going through it.” 

The last time Basaldua spoke to her about this matter was in August last year: she told her that her superiors had offered to put her complaints in writing. But she says she doesn’t know if she finally did it. 

The sergeant, according to her friend, was transferred to another base sometime after August, “but it was through regular orders,” she points out, and not because he was punished by the commanders. This and the rest of the statements made by Basaldua’s friend could not be independently confirmed by Noticias Telemundo. The Fort Hood base has also not responded to questions about this and other aspects of the case. 

“He was abusive, he had choked her”

Her friend also recounts another episode of alleged violence against Basaldua, which is corroborated by another of her friends, a soldier from Fort Hood who also spoke with Noticias Telemundo and asked that his identity remain secret for fear of reprisals.

Basaldua told her friend in February, weeks before she died, that a soldier on the base she was getting to know had tried to suffocate her: “I knew he was abusive because he had choked her and stuff, and she told him at the time of that she didn’t like that, but he just made fun of her and laughed as if it were a game.”

She tried to get away from the man, but “he kept bothering her,” says her friend, “he kept sending her messages, but Basa didn’t want to talk about that anymore.” Her other friend told Noticias Telemundo that Basaldua spoke to him in January about the attack: “[She] told me: ‘Someone choked me.’ And that really surprised me, I told her: ‘Get away from that man or sergeant because that’s not right.’”

This friend saw Basaldua for the last time on Friday, March 3rd, in a store on the military base, where she told him that she had problems. “She told me that some things were not going very well in the company and I told her: ‘Hey, don’t be afraid, if you need a place to leave, I have a house. And if nobody wants to understand you, tell me and I can do [something] to communicate with the people who investigate harassment issues? [...] But she was kind of scared because each company is different and sometimes it’s very toxic how they treat people, especially women and younger people.”

A trip to California that never happened

Both friends, military men who shared training with Basaldua at the Fort Leonard Wood Military Academy in Missouri, said they find it hard to believe their friend took her own life.

Basaldua told her friend that she would not renew her contract with the Army when it expired in August and that she planned to move to Long Beach, California, where her father lives, who confirmed to Noticias Telemundo his daughter’s intentions to leave the Army. 

“She wanted to end her time here on a good note and leave that behind and begin her life,” her friend recounted, “I told her: ‘If you need something, call me, call me, call me. You are not alone here.”

[“Que se pudran en la cárcel”: la madre de Vanessa Guillén exige la verdad tras anuncio del castigo a militares en Fort Hood]

The friend explained that the two had planned to meet up in California in April: “I know she was going through things, but she was going to California with me next month. She told me that she had bought her ticket for March 31 to go to California.

“She was happy that we were going to see each other,” she added, “and she was finally going to California.” In messages from Basaldua that her friend shared with Telemundo News, the young woman talks about her travel plans; she was going to request a leave of absence from the military base between March 31 and April 15. On March 13, she was found dead on the base.

Pamela Subizar contributed to this report. Juliana Jiménez translated it.