Next Army Base Gets New Name Honoring Vietnam War Pilot Who Medevac’d Thousands Of Troops

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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A second U.S. Army base received a new designation Monday as part of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) efforts to scrub names and symbols seeming to cast a positive light on the Confederacy from its facilities.

Alabama’s Fort Rucker, established in 1942 as home of Army Aviation and named for a confederate officer Col. Edmund Rucker, became Fort Novosel in a ceremony on Monday. The base’s new moniker seeks to honor Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael J. Novosel Sr., a Vietnam war pilot who extracted about 5,500 wounded American troops from the fray and received a Medal of Honor after a mission in 1969, according to CNN.

Novosel’s “legacy of courage under fire in support of Soldiers on the ground is what we train for and expect of our Soldiers. It is an honor for the Home of Army Aviation to bear his name,” Maj. Gen. Michael McCurry, US Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, said in a statement, according to CNN.

Novosel died in 2006 at the age of 83. His service spanned three wars and culminated in Vietnam, where he flew 2,543 extraction missions including the one that earned him the military’s highest decoration. (RELATED: Texas Governor Working ‘Swiftly’ To Secure Pardon For Army Vet Convicted Of Shooting Armed BLM Rioter)

“He unhesitatingly maneuvered his helicopter into a heavily fortified and defended enemy training area where a group of wounded Vietnamese soldiers were pinned down by a large enemy force,” his Medal of Honor citation states.

“He said we are all Americans when we go to war,” Jeannee Vinyard, one of Novosel’s children, told CNN of her father when asked about the change from Confederate names.

Congress instructed DOD to identify and root out any symbols, buildings, equipment or other assets that might appear to commemorate the Confederacy in 2021, according to a statement. The Naming Commission presented its third and final report to Congress in September, detailing hundreds of items across the services, including names, insignia and other assets that would need altering.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved removing names of Confederate officers from Army bases in 2022, seeking to replace them with names that honor individuals “rooted in their local communities” and scrubbed of allusions to a racist, pro-slavery heritage, CNN reported.

Fort Pickett, Virginia, became Fort Barfoot on March 24, the first of nine Army garrisons that will be renamed by the close of 2023.

However, the process to rename bases has proven more costly than anticipated, Army Times reported.

DOD allocated $1 million to the Army for renaming bases, but “that’s not anywhere close to what we need,” Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen, Army deputy chief of staff for Installations, said, according to Army Times. The process involves changing signs on installation gates, facilities and streets, replacing numerous smaller signs and technological changes, racking up the cost far higher than DOD estimated.

The Army now anticipates the process will cost $39 million after the Naming Commission estimated it would cost approximately $21 million, according to Army Times.

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