Ft. Hood is now Ft. Cavazos, honoring a Latino general instead of a Confederate one
SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
Today in central Texas, the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division Band played the national anthem.
(SOUNDBITE OF U.S. ARMY'S 1ST CAVALRY DIVISION BAND'S PERFORMANCE OF JOHN STAFFORD SMITH'S "THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER")
PFEIFFER: The occasion was the renaming of Fort Cavazos. It's one of the country's largest military bases, and it was formerly known as Fort Hood.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Which meant more than just a ceremony. On base, it meant a lot of new signage.
BRIAN DOSA: The big thing in redesignating from Hood to Cavazos are going to be the visible signs.
KELLY: Brian Dosa is director of public works at Fort Cavazos.
DOSA: There's going to be major signs, big signs. There's going to be medium-sized signs and smaller signs. In all, we have about 400 signs that we are going to change. They're not all changed yet. And our strategy was to start with the biggest, most visible and kind of work our way down the list from there.
KELLY: Today's ceremony ended with the reveal of big, new signs at the front entrance.
DOSA: I was at the ceremony this morning, of course, and I thought it was just absolutely perfectly executed and an event that just honored the legacy of General Richard Cavazos and really helped people understand who General Cavazos was, how he's impacted our army and how he's benefited Fort Hood, now Fort Cavazos.
KELLY: Richard Cavazos was a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars who became the first Latino four-star general. He was also a native of Texas.
CHAD FOSTER: I can't think of a better namesake than Richard Cavazos. His bravery in battle, his legacy of leadership and mentorship - absolutely the kind of leader that we want to be associated with and the legacy that we're going to continue to live up to.
KELLY: Colonel Chad Foster is the garrison commander of the base.
FOSTER: We're proud. We're proud to be associated with him. He's one of us, and today was really special because we got to set that in stone.
KELLY: In 2021, Congress passed its annual defense bill authorizing the military's budget. Within that funding bill, Congress also created a commission to identify military sites where the Confederacy still loomed over United States soldiers, sailors and airmen. The former Fort Hood was named after a Confederate general.
PFEIFFER: Colonel Foster took command just weeks before that naming commission made its first visit. He oversaw this name change.
FOSTER: We're not erasing Fort Hood's history. You know, we're not going back and changing the past legacy of service and sacrifice that has characterized us for a long time, really since our founding in 1942. None of that is changing. Any place, especially our installation, Fort Cavazos, what is it that defines us? And it's our people.
KELLY: In 2020, a series of deaths of soldiers at what was then called Fort Hood prompted the Army to conduct an independent review which found that leadership was, quote, "permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault." The Army punished 14 leaders of the base, and Colonel Foster took command in May 2021.
FOSTER: Well, I would just say that the steps to improve our - I guess the culture and climate here at this installation, those steps are - have been underway for a long time. Today is not the start of anything. It's just the continuation of something that's been ongoing for a while. And the challenges that we've had here have been real. They have inspired introspection. They have inspired a lot of really hard work by a lot of really, really good leaders who are focused on the right things. And, you know, we're anxious to be on the cutting edge of improving situations and the quality of life for our soldiers.
PFEIFFER: That was Colonel Chad Foster, garrison commander of the base now known as Fort Cavazos. We also heard from Brian Dosa, the fort's director of public works.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.