FORT LEE, Va. — In the unlikely event it escaped notice, this Army post has spent the past year preparing for an unparalleled historical event with wide-ranging impacts: its official redesignation as Fort Gregg-Adams.
This transformation is one of nine Army base redesignations Congress mandated in 2021 legislation that required removing or modifying Department of Defense assets commemorating the Confederate States of America or anyone who voluntarily served under the Confederacy.
While the April 27 redesignation ceremony commemorates the new name officially, plenty of work lies ahead in an evolving process that will continue throughout this year. Nobody knows that process better than the soon-to-be U.S. Army Garrison Fort Gregg-Adams, which is responsible for the brunt of the actual work required. Its Directorate of Public Works is doing much of the heavy lifting.
“Redesignation is a challenge for any organization because this is a comprehensive effort,” said Quay B. Jones, DPW chief of engineering and acting director. As an example, he highlighted a particularly important focus for his organization: “Not only are we renaming the installation, but also several streets.”
That’s putting it mildly. While only 15 streets on post needed new names under the Congressional mandate, it accounted a large enough portion of the installation’s 514 physical street signs to require changing all of them to maintain a uniform appearance and meet current Army standards, which most of the existing signs did not. Jones said building signs listing the old name of a redesignated asset, whether a street or the post itself, also need to be changed.
“There are conference rooms and building titles that need updating to reflect the Fort Gregg-Adams name,” he said. “Then, there are smaller things that come up over time – manhole covers, for instance – that need replacement if they have text or markings that indicate the post’s name is anything besides Fort Gregg-Adams.”
Jones said that in addition to the street signs, updates are needed to the seven access gate signs, three water towers, five range signs and almost 40 building signs.
Because all the street signs are being replaced, an additional five streets named with either a number or a single letter also were updated to commemorate other deserving Army leaders and heroes as a source of inspiration for Soldiers training here. One of those roads is B Avenue, which was redesignated as “Barfoot Avenue” after Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Col. Van T. Barfoot – also the namesake of nearby Fort Barfoot, née Pickett.
Per the DoD and Army directives published late last year, work related to redesignations is required to be done by Dec. 31.
“The Garrison, in coordination with CASCOM, is taking a multi-phase approach,” Jones said. “We’re changing the most prominent elements first – prior to the ceremony – with the others scheduled later this spring and summer.”
The most visible “prominent” elements recently updated include the street signs along the former Lee Avenue – now Gregg Avenue – leading motorists to Gregg-Adams Club lawn expanse. They were changed a week ago. Other items addressed around the same time included water towers, signage at the recently redesignated Gregg-Adams Club, and the main installation sign along Route 36 – shrouded at the time of this article but set for unveiling once the post is officially redesignated.
Joe Michalsky, the DPW civil engineer overseeing the sign name changes, said the effort demands thoughtful planning.
“If we have a gate sign needing to be replaced, the question becomes, ‘To what extent are we replacing this sign?’ Is it being completely replaced? Are we trying to meet present day standards? Are we just changing the face of the sign, or can we just pull off some of the letters and replace them with the new name?”
Some of those questions also were apparently answered by the Virginia Department of Transportation, which in the past week or more began replacing many of the roughly 40 signs that will eventually direct motorists to “Fort Gregg-Adams,” including prominent signs along I-85, I-95, and I-295.
Garrison Commander Col. James Hoyman had nothing but praise for recent support from the Commonwealth of Virginia, especially its transportation department. “VDOT has done a great job getting the new Fort Gregg-Adams signs up around our post, and our local municipalities have been equally supportive of updating related signage on local roads. It really highlights how fortunate we are to have these incredible relationships with our neighbors beyond our installation boundaries.”
The redesignation has required consideration beyond the realm of street signs. Kari Atkinson, who directs the Army Quartermaster Museum, Army Women’s Museum and the Ordnance Training Support Facility here, said the words “Fort Lee” appear infrequently in those facilities since none of them focus deeply on the installation’s history. Regardless, this is one area where few changes are required.
“We are only changing ‘Fort Lee’ to ‘Fort Gregg-Adams’ in reference to the present,” Atkinson said. “Anything that was historically Camp or Fort Lee remains because we’re presenting the history of the installation, which would be accurate for that time.”
This approach comports with the recommendations from the congressional Naming Commission, which wrote in its final report to Congress: “The Commission decided that Confederate-named assets in installation museums fall outside the remit of the Commission, since the purpose of these museums is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret historically significant artifacts pertaining to that installation, mission, or other focus area.”
The redesignation effort has required measures of forethought and diligence in other areas, said Stephen J. Baker, the garrison’s public affairs director.
“This is one of the most significant changes our installation has ever experienced,” Baker said. “It’s important we take care of the military members and families who live here, our thousands of personnel and many others by providing the most accurate and up-to-date information about street names and facility names and other issues related to the redesignation.”
Among the chief concerns expressed by members of the post community, Baker said the most frequent ones raised involve mail delivery.
“One of our new namesakes is Lt. Col. Charity Adams, famed for leading the most spectacular effort in Army history – if not all of U.S. history – to get millions of backlogged parcels and pieces of mail into the hands of our troops in the WWII European Theater of Operations,” Baker said. “Getting mail delivery right at the post honored to bear her name is an obvious must.”
In addition to Army headquarters coordination with the Postmaster General to ensure updated names are populated in the U.S. Postal Service system, Baker said the garrison also coordinated with the local postmaster, who oversees delivery on post, to ensure mail continues getting where it needs to be.
“This is going to be a fairly simple transition for residents,” Baker said. “They don’t even need to submit change of address cards to USPS. In fact, the local postmaster explicitly asked us to share that it not be done at all unless residents are actually moving to a different physical residence,” Baker said.
When it comes to the name of the post changing, “zip code is king,” Baker said. “As long as the correct zip code is on the letter or package, it’s going to get to this installation,” he said.
As far as the street name changes in family housing areas, Baker said the garrison provided the postmaster with a list containing the old and new names for each street, which will help the mail carriers who have been delivering mail on post for several years in the unlikely event they experience confusion.
“The only thing we hope residents will do if living on a street with a new name is to take it upon themselves to update their addresses with friends, family, vendors, creditors and any others corresponding with them,” Baker said. “Our aim is to make this process as easy as possible for them – it’s a big part of why we’re here.”
The Garrison also has a major role in staging the ceremony at the Gregg-Adams Club. It is sprucing up the installation for the hundreds who will attend the event, accommodating media, managing operations for multiple viewing sites and providing the required security and various other support necessary to ensure the redesignation runs smoothly.
The redesignation ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. April 27 and will be livestreamed at www.facebook.com/armyfortlee.