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COL. RALPH PUCKETT AMONG NAMES BEING CONSIDERED FOR RENAMED ARMY BASES
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
Retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett Jr., 95, a Tifton native, is among the names released March 17 that are being considered as replacements for Army bases that are currently named for Confederate generals.
A federal commission, charged with recommending new names for all military installations and assets that honor the Confederacy, released 87 names under review for nine Army bases, which include Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia.
U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, is the only member of Congress on the Naming Commission, which received more than 34,000 submissions from citizens recommending a total of 3,670 names.
Last September, the Tifton Grapevine led a local campaign to submit Ralph Puckett's name to the commission as a replacement for Fort Benning.
"The Naming Commission has deliberated extensively over the thousands of possible new names suggested for the nine Army installations originally named in commemoration of the Confederate States of America. While a final selection for each post is still pending, the scope of consideration is now focused on these names," the commission said in a written release.
Puckett received the Medal of Honor last May for his heroism during the Korean War. The medal's citation recognized Puckett for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty" while leading his severely outnumbered men in battle during November 1950.
During the Medal of Honor ceremony, President Joe Biden called Puckett, who resides in Columbus, "a true American hero" whose recognition is "long overdue."
Puckett was born and grew up in Tifton. He is a 1949 West Point graduate who joined the newly established U.S. Army Ranger Department, serving as an instructor and tactical officer, and commanding companies at Fort Benning and in the Ranger Mountain Camp. He went on to lead companies in Vietnam, train cadets at West Point, and organize military leadership courses in Colombia.
The Col. Ralph Puckett Leadership Award series was named for him, honoring top officers in the U.S. Army Rangers, which is the most elite and highly trained of the Army's combat forces. Puckett is considered a Rangers legend. The Army's Ranger School is based at Fort Benning.
The Naming Commission said that “names of our military installations should appropriately reflect the courage, values, sacrifices, and diversity of our military men and women, with consideration given to the local or regional significance of names and their potential to inspire and motivate our service members.”
In addition to Fort Benning and Fort Gordon, other bases to be renamed are Fort Rucker in Alabama, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Polk in Louisiana, and Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee, and Fort Pickett all in Virginia.
The commission will send its final recommendations to Congress by Oct. 1.