The replacement of Confederate names on military bases is underway. It could take years to complete. | DFA 90.7

The federal commission charged with recommending new names for Fort Bragg and eight other military bases in the South, now named for Confederate officers, is receiving thousands of suggestions.

The commission started taking suggestions from the public last month on its website and visited grassroots communities as part of its mission to take local preferences into account. The chair of the commission is retired Admiral Michelle Howard.

“We heard directly from local chambers of commerce, historical genealogy societies, rotating clubs, school board officials, local national interest groups, church leaders, businesses and many other organizations,” Howard said.

She was speaking at an online press conference Thursday after the committee submitted a progress report to Congress. Its final recommendations are expected in a year. Howard said the commission would stop accepting suggestions on Dec. 1 and start shrinking the list. The names that are starting to emerge fall into several categories. Those of people like heroes or key leaders associated with a base, inspirational words like victory, an aspect of local geography, or something that describes the base’s military role.

Chris Seward

Fort Bragg in North Carolina is one of 10 bases named after Confederate military leaders.

Fort Bragg, for example, is collecting suggestions and running a Facebook poll on some of them, including: Fort Liberty, Fort Sandhills, Airborne, and Special Operations Base.

And some locals have suggested the military could save money by simply saying that Fort Bragg is now named after Union General Edward Bragg of Wisconsin instead of his cousin, Confederate General Braxton Bragg.

Howard said the commission would consider all suggestions, but a similar idea popped up at a community meeting at Fort Gordon in Georgia and was not universally popular.

“I’ll tell you, then there were other community members who then stood up and said – You know if you do that some of us would like to see new names and if you use the same one.” name, even with a different human, in a different time context, then you almost nullify what they thought was the intent of the law, ”Howard said. “So I took this to heart, hearing a member of the community say it.”

The idea also doesn’t impress Dan McNeill, a retired four-star general who has served a myriad of roles at Fort Bragg. McNeill helps lead a citizens’ committee assembled by grassroots leaders to act as a liaison with the community on the name change.

“Is that all you got? What’s the connection to Fort Bragg? Was he a Union guy? I mean, I think we can do better than that,” McNeill said. “I think so. that we have to work a little more. We have to think. ”

At a virtual town hall last month for Fort Bragg, local residents came up with several ideas.

Vicki Andrews was one of two people pushing for Dr Mary Walker, the only woman to win the Medal of Honor.

“She worked for the Union army, but she also took care of the Confederate soldiers. And so, in all the things you need to consider… It’s 2021, ”Andrews said. “We have to make sure we at least consider this powerful woman.”

“I think we need to work a little more. We have to think. “

Dan McNeill, retired four-star general

This town hall drew several text comments angry at the renaming of the base. Things have been smoother in some base cities, however. William Cooper is the mayor of Enterprise, Alabama, one of the many municipalities surrounding Fort Rucker.

“Well, from what I’ve observed, really, really, there hasn’t been a lot of talk about it,” he said.

Cooper said locals wanted comments and came up with several ideas. But the important things are that the base’s military role and its overwhelming local economic impact does not change.

“We will just continue to support the base, whatever the name is,” Cooper said. “Of course his mission is to train aviators, so, really and really, it won’t have any effect on that, you know. So whatever name suits us.

And whatever that new name is, it and the others must be in place by 2024.

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