Two Republican presidential contenders took aim at the Army's recent move to rename military bases that for decades honored Confederates who waged war against the U.S., saying that as president they would return to those rebel namesakes.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence promised to restore Fort Liberty, North Carolina, to Fort Bragg. The base was renamed this month, scrubbing the name of a Confederate general widely considered among the least successful military leaders in the conflict.
The renaming of nine Army bases was ordered by Congress in 2021 and approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as part of a process to remove Confederate tributes. Fort Liberty was the only Army installation not renamed after Medal of Honor recipients, war heroes or highly respected figures such as Vietnam veteran Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife Julia.
"It's an iconic name and iconic base, and we're not gonna let political correctness run amok in North Carolina," DeSantis, who was referencing Fort Bragg, told a crowd at the North Carolina Republican Party convention Friday.
DeSantis trails former President Donald Trump in the polls -- about 22% of voters support him, according to FiveThirtyEight's compilation of national polling data -- but he remains ahead of other GOP hopefuls.
The Florida governor has used cultural grievances as a key pillar of his campaign, often chiding the military. He has repeatedly accused the services of being "woke," a term used by the political right to criticize Democrats and the political left for having a preoccupation with social justice issues, such as civil rights.
Pence also vowed to restore Fort Liberty to its previous name. The former vice president is a longshot candidate with about 5% support, according to national polls, and faces an uphill battle with Trump's base and GOP voters who want a new party leader.
"We will end the political correctness in the hallways of the Pentagon, and North Carolina will once again be home to Fort Bragg," he said Saturday at the North Carolina Republican event in Greensboro.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, were at Fort Liberty on Friday where he signed an executive order that aims to boost job opportunities for military and veteran spouses.
On June 2, the Army renamed Fort Bragg to Fort Liberty. The base is considered among the Army's most high-profile installations, serving as the home of the 82nd Airborne Division that is set to deploy at a moment's notice. The base is also home to the service's Special Forces and secretive Delta Force.
That renaming is part of a Pentagon-wide effort to scrub namesakes honoring Confederates. The service is halfway through the renaming process of the nine designated bases.
The next base being renamed is Fort Polk, Louisiana, on Tuesday to Fort Johnson.
The new name will honor Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a soldier in the first Black unit in the Army to engage in combat in World War I. While wounded, he prevented a fellow soldier from being captured by enemy Germans.
In that battle, Johnson repelled an enemy advance using hand-to-hand combat, killing at least one German with a knife. Johnson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2015. He was among the first Americans to be awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Bronze palm, a prestigious French military award for valor, in 1918.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.