Fort Hood Gets a New Name Honoring a Texas-Born Four-Star General

May 9, 2023
Fort Cavazos sign

Meet Fort Cavazos. As of Tuesday, the installation formerly known as Fort Hood, Texas, that has been at the center of several national controversies will no longer be named after a Confederate general.

The new name honors Gen. Richard Cavazos, a Texas-born Mexican American who twice earned America’s second-highest military honor during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Both instances of Cavazos’ heroism involved rallying his soldiers against an entrenched or ambushing enemy, often exposing himself to fire and at least once refusing an order to leave his soldiers behind.

This latest designation is part of the Defense Department’s push to rename installations honoring the Confederacy; Fort Cavazos is one of nine Army installations being renamed after the Pentagon’s Naming Commission delivered recommendations to the secretary of defense.

Fort Hood — which has gained national media attention for strings of soldier suicides and murders — is home to the Army’s III Armored Corps, an organization that makes up the lion’s share of the service’s heavy armored units.

“We are proud to be renaming Fort Hood as Fort Cavazos in recognition of an outstanding American hero, a veteran of the Korea and Vietnam wars and the first Hispanic to reach the rank of four-star general in our Army,” Lt. Gen. Sean Bernabe, III Armored Corps commanding general, said in a press release. “General Cavazos’ combat-proven leadership, his moral character and his loyalty to his soldiers and their families made him the fearless yet respected and influential leader that he was during the time he served, and beyond.”

Fort Hood was originally named after Confederate general John Bell Hood. As of last year, the Army estimated that the renaming of the base would cost about $1.5 million.

Given Hood’s troubling recent history, including the death of Spc. Vanessa Guillén in 2020 that launched an investigation into the way leadership handled sexual assaults and murder investigations, some are not convinced that the new name will result in much change for the installation’s reputation.

“Now they’re going to rename the installation, so hopefully that’s going to take away the negative PR,” Sean Timmons, a Texas-based managing partner for the Tully Rinckey law firm and a former judge advocate general at Fort Hood, told Military.com in an interview last month. “But it’s just going to be a new name and the same business as usual practices. It’s not going to change anything.”

Last month, Military.com reported that two female soldiers died in March at the installation. Both had died by apparent suicides, yet the Army reported only one publicly.

Army leaders appear excited to welcome a new, fresh chapter in the installation’s otherwise troubled history by honoring the “Texas-born hero of the Korean and Vietnam wars,” as an Army press release referred to Cavazos, and his acts of gallantry in combat.

“Fate brought Richard E. Cavazos into the American Century,” the Naming Commission’s final report read. “But valor and leadership characterized his career of military service within it.”

The son of a World War I veteran, Cavazos joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps and commissioned as an infantry lieutenant toward the beginning of the Korean War.

“It was during that war’s closing days that he first distinguished himself as a leader, rallying his men to make three separate charges on a well entrenched enemy position,” an Army press release said. “Afterwards, he returned to the field five separate times to personally evacuate his wounded men before accepting treatment for his own injuries.”

Cavazos would go on to serve in the Vietnam War as a battalion commander, again distinguishing himself in combat.

“He was an atypical army officer in Vietnam,” Bill Fee, who served under him, said in a U.S. Army museum interview. “Most battalion commanders stood in the rear or in a helicopter above to direct the battle. … [He] had nothing to do with that. He fought on the ground with his troops during battle. … He was on the ground with us as we were facing the North Vietnamese Army.”

Then-Lt. Col. Cavazos counterattacked the enemy at Loc Ninh, Vietnam, leading an assault against a fortified position and again exposing himself to fire.

In addition to earning two Distinguished Service Crosses, Cavazos earned two Legions of Merit, a Silver Star, five Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart and a bevy of other awards. He commanded III Corps at Fort Hood and became the first Hispanic American to achieve the rank of four-star general, according to the commission’s report.

After serving for 33 years in the Army, Cavazos retired in 1984. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 88, according to the service.

— Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at drew.lawrence@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @df_lawrence.

 

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