Guest Post: Celebrating the Army’s Positive Past

With racial tensions growing since the events in Charlottesville, the debate of the U.S. military’s continued use of Confederate names has been brought back in the limelight. The Chief of Staff of the Army General Mark Milley tweeted out “ The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks.” 

However, there still has yet to be an official comment on the Army planning to change any of the ten installations named in honor of Confederate generals.

The last time the Army commented on these ten base names was following the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, SC. Then Army public affairs chief Brig. Gen. Malcolm Frost said, “Every Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history,” adding “these historic names represent individuals, not causes or ideologies.”

Many people have recommended changing the names of these installations but the Army has not taken the lead citing historical precedent. Also, no one in the Army has publicly shared the costs of making these name changes to include signage, letterheads, and directories. If the Army decides to move forward on the base renaming it will also need to include the Confederate named streets on all other Army installations. These cost estimates should be presented to Congress and included in the next NDAA to legislate the name changes and provide the necessary funds.

While many people have argued for removing these names, only a few have offered any alternatives. Following the mantra of “Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions,” I am asking those concerned about how to move forward on this issue to offer some solutions. Click here to vote in a short poll to develop suggestions for renaming ten installations named for Confederate soldiers. The individuals named in the poll hearken back to the Army’s positive past, providing names of people who have not carried arms against the United States. That should be the bare minimum if we’re looking at base names.


About the author: Leo Cruz has served on all sides of the five-sided puzzle palace as a former Department of Defense political appointee and Naval officer. Currently a storyteller for hire, connecting people and concepts for collective change. 

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8 thoughts on “Guest Post: Celebrating the Army’s Positive Past

  1. I actually think we shouldn’t rename the bases. The US Army has never shied from studying or discussing its failures. We still rehash the Bataan Campaign; we still study the early failures in Korea in 1950 (and the list goes on). There is no reason we cannot discuss and understand the impact *both* sides of the Civil War had on the US Army. Understanding the impact of the Confederacy doesn’t mean we’re glorifying or justifying the CSA.

    If we’re going to rename bases because of the failings of the individual, then we’ll have to rename Ft. Sheridan and Camp Custer–both were notorious in their hatred of Native Americans. We’ll also have to rename Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, since Andrew Jackson is a two-fer: he both owned slaves AND oppressed Native Americans. As for the “acceptable” names on the list, we can’t use Zachary Taylor: he owned slaves & wasn’t very amenable to eating cherries and milk. We can’t use Sherman–he was a key developer in the genocidal policies against Native Americans. We also cannot use Adna Chaffee; his policies against the Filipinos were terrible, and would get him charged as a war criminal if he tried them today.

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    • We’re not talking about the failure of the individual here; we’re talking about deifying traitors to the Republic and perpetuating the myth that the descendants of those traitors want to perpetuate because they lost and want to keep the future of this country under their lash just to keep certain people from ‘rising above their station’. The military bases named after those traitors need to be renamed after veterans who have at least contributed to the preservation of the Republic even if their Post-Civil War crimes were horrendous. Fortunately, the US Military has existed long enough to produce a decent amount of veterans who have done enough good in the near present to choose from if the earlier ones may have had less than honorable acts. (As an aside, I think naming a few forts or camps after Native Americans should also be considered.)

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      • It seems to me that if the President and Congress directly after the war tried to plant seeds of reconciliation, we should heed their desires. These men did commit treason, it doesn’t erase them from our history. This is a slippery slope and no soldier from those times had clean hands. Lets be honest, this was never an issue until people ran out of real things to care about. Does Fort Bragg really keep anybody up at night?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Here’s the thing:

          First, they didn’t do it directly after the war ended or even during Reconstruction. It was done after Reconstruction and during the resurrection of the KKK around the end of WWI; long after the South lost.

          Second, unlike you, I don’t think the racist dead should have much of a say in how the more (allegedly) enlightened present should view the past considering how much research has gone into studying the past.

          Third, when it comes to bloody hands, I think it’s pretty disgusting to say that those who fought to preserve the Republic and end slavery are on the same level as those who sought to protect the states’ ‘right’ to commit treason in defense of slavery. The Union may have killed a lot of traitors but that does not change the fact that the forts are named after men who committed treason and should have all been hanged after the war.

          Fourth, changing the name of the fort does not automatically erase the person for whom it is named for from history unless you lack object permanence, are illiterate, or suffer from an unknown cognitive disorder. Robert E. Lee and the rest of those people’s treason is very well recorded in these things called books and probably also been transcribed on this thing called the internet.

          Fifth, symbols matter. It defines who the person/group/state/institution is. If an institution is named after a bunch of racist traitors who thought enslaving other human beings; then it is saying that it has no problem relegating those who were slaves to a lesser status.

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  2. On your survey, shame on you for not adding a selection to NOT RENAME! Our history is what it is. Every camp named after someone was named because of great things he did. Great soldiers are great soldiers, and should not be written out of history because of a bunch of idiots who haven’t the knowledge to learn from history but rather are like little children drawing (badly) with crayons.

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    • One man’s “Great Soldier” is another’s Great Traitor. Your side lost the war and you’re on the wrong side of history; get the f*** over it.

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  3. “people who have not carried arms against the United States. That should be the bare minimum if we’re looking at base names.”
    This is the bottom line for me. It seems contradictory to me to name a military base for person, who while an historic figure, led forces against the nation those on that base have sworn to defend. Why honor those who betrayed their oaths and their country? If no consensus can be reached on whom to honor, could place names be used? Fort Augusta for Fort Custer, for example, or Fort Battle Creek.

    Liked by 1 person

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