Fort Bragg is one of the most famous and largest military bases globally. Most people are aware that it houses significant commands, such as the U.S. Army Forces Command addition to housing many major commands and various units. However, everyone knows that it is home to the Mighty 82nd Airborne Division. The legendary Fort will undergo a name change, but the legacy will live on forever.
The Beginnings and the Airborne
Camp Bragg started as a training ground mainly for field artillery units, and it was officially established on September 4th, 1918. Its suitable terrain, sufficient water, access to rail, and appropriate climate made the location an easy pick. The name of General Braxton Bragg was picked as the official name of the camp.
Much of the WWI period was dedicated to constructing the camp, and its completion came to fruition on February 2nd, 1919. On September 30th, 1922, Camp Bragg was redesignated as Fort Bragg. From the early days, Fort Bragg saw a gradual increase of personnel, reaching over 5400 by 1940.
The United States started preparing for World War Two and instituted the Selective Service and Training Act of 1940, thus having a significant impact on the national morale and preparation to defend the homeland. This also had a substantial effect on Bragg, and within a year, the Fort reached an astonishing population of over 67,000 soldiers, eventually reaching over 100,000 by 1943. Fort Bragg became a training hub for the 11th, 13th, 17th, 82nd, and 101st Airborne Divisions, and many battles around the world were because of the rigid and impeccable drills conducted there. The Airborne troops who trained at Fort Bragg at the time, through grit and esprit de corps, achieved world fame by playing an incomparable role in the defeat of Nazi Germany, leading to the Allies coming out victorious.
Home of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces
The post-WW2 era saw significant changes and developments in the history of the famous garrison, with the 82nd Airborne Division permanently being stationed there, followed by the reactivation of its mother unit, the XVIII Airborne Corps, in 1951. Another significant milestone for the base was the establishment of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command in 1952, thus becoming one of the most powerful and professional military bases in the world.
During the Cold War era and the Vietnam days, Fort Bragg saw much activity, and troops who trained and were stationed there deployed around the world to fight on America’s behalf. In the '80s and the '90s, monumental operational successes led to multiple deployments across the globe, from beaches of Latin America to the deserts of Southwest Asia. These proud achievements became the insignia of America’s power projection and would lead to further investments and modernization efforts.
Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the global war on terror meant even more activities based out of Fort Bragg and its home station reputation became station unrivaled. It was during this time the two major army commands made their permanent home at the Fort near Fayetteville, NC, when in 2011, the U.S. Army Forces Command and the U.S. Army Reserve Command moved there.
Fort Bragg today is home to around 90,000 military personnel, civilians, and family members and symbolizes the U.S. Army's resilience.
Enter Fort Liberty
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 established the Congressional Naming Commission to review the U.S. military installations named after confederate leaders. The Commission thoroughly reviewed over 750 military facilities, institutions, roads, and military equipment and received over 34,000 submissions for new names.
The blue-ribbon Commission officially proposed new titles for nine Army bases, including Fort Bragg. The new proposal, if approved, means that Fort Bragg will remain a title in the history books, with the new name being Fort Liberty. This was the only proposal that did not include the name of a prominent individual or group of people as opposed to the other eight army bases.
In March, however, there were 87 names on the candidate list, and the only abstract name was the word "courage." Then, the Commission met with community leaders and military commanders and re-drafted their list after thorough consultations over the sensitive and costly change.
The Commission, chaired by Admiral Michelle Howard, retired, justified their recommendation over the new name by pointing out that “in the 21st century, liberty remains the central tenet of America and its Army. Liberty graces our currency and our landmarks and is essential to our funding documents…. Liberty continues to unite the Army. It features on crests, centers the Divisional song of the storied 82d Airborne Division, and anchors the motto of the equally heralded U.S. Army Special Forces."
The decision lies within congress and the Department of Defense, which will review the list, which is to be submitted by October 1st, 2022. There are also dozens of Fort Bragg signs and roads, which will be reviewed to include the Fort Bragg ACP gates. The ‘fielding’ of new names will occur starting in 2023. There is concern about the cost of the name change, which will have a big load on the community around the Fort, and there's a small effort to get federal funding for these communities.
A new name but an old history
While the process is still ongoing, the changes are imminent, and there will no longer be a Fort Bragg. The new name will take time to become customary, but it does have a good ring to it: Fort Liberty, North Carolina. For military veterans and those closer to retirement, Fort Bragg will always remain Bragg.
The sweats, the tears, the jumps, and the camaraderie will have a special place in people's hearts regardless of the name of the base. But, to younger generations, there will come a day when Fort Liberty is all they've known.
Tomorrow, to America's best sons and daughters, Fort Bragg and Fort Liberty will mean the same thing: freedom.
Did you know?!
This is not the first time a significant change is about to occur regarding the famous base. Back in August of 1921, the War Department decided to shut down Camp Bragg due to postwar cutbacks. The commanding general at the time, General Albert J. Bowley, made tireless efforts to cancel the decision and convinced the Secretary of War to pay a site visit to the Camp. This personal visit and the lobbying by the civic organizations of Fayetteville, NC, led to the annulment of the decision on September 16th, 2021. Ever since, the relations between Fort Bragg and its civic community have only gotten stronger.