The Army has appointed a brigadier general to investigate allegations that commanders of a Houston-based recruiting battalion tried to cover up a toxic leadership climate and low morale after a recent string of suicides, according to a letter obtained Thursday by the Houston Chronicle.

The letter from Secretary of the Army Pete Geren to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, came in response to the senator’s request for an independent probe into five suicides at the Houston Recruiting Battalion, including two in recent months, the Chronicle reported.

The two-page letter, dated Nov. 3, constitutes the top Army official’s first comments on the deaths to surface publicly, the paper noted.

According to the article, Geren wrote that he shared Cornyn’s concern about the suicides and reports of "undue command influence within the Houston Recruiting Battalion investigations."

Cornyn on Thursday said he is pleased with the Army’s response so far, but his office will continue to monitor developments and pursue further action as needed.

"I think it’s a good start, and we’ll see what the investigation reveals," Cornyn told the paper. "But if I get any hint that they are not truly getting to the bottom of it, then I intend to pursue my call for an independent investigation."

Houston recruiters have said they regularly work 12 to 14 hours a day, six or seven days a week, according to the Chronicle. They have said that if they don’t sign at least two new recruits a month, they’re punished with even longer duty hours and threatened with losing rank or receiving bad evaluation reports.

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