The official ceremony redesignating Fort Pickett as Fort Barfoot took place at Blackstone Army Airfield, Virginia, March 24, 2023.
A congressional commission rebranded Fort Pickett to honor U.S. Army Tech. Sgt. Van T. Barfoot, a World War II Medal of Honor awardee serving in the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division – a regiment whose origins are with the Colorado Army National Guard.
Fort Pickett, built in 1941 and covering 41,000 acres, was originally named after Confederate General George Pickett. It is the first of nine Army forts to be renamed.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Adam Cole, commander, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, and the regiment’s most senior Non-commissioned Officer, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Luke LaChance, attended the ceremony.
“It really highlighted why we name things,” Cole said. “Generationally, we look at whom we want to honor and whom we want to hold up and Colonel Barfoot is the perfect example. Just look at his Native American heritage, heroism, leadership, and the continuity of his life and service to our nation. He is absolutely the type of person we want to be honoring.”
The post set up a large display encapsulating Barfoot’s life which also featured his actual Medal of Honor he received for gallantry during the Italy campaign as well as the M1 Carbine he carried during WWII.
“Barfoot not only received the Medal of Honor, but he stayed in after WWII, and he continued his service in Korea and Vietnam,” LaChance said. “That’s a highlight of representing the Army value of selfless service. The overwhelming support from the community for this event was impressive and this clearly ties into our Colorado heritage for our unit. It was a great honor to be part of this ceremony today.”
Other dignitaries attending the ceremony were Director of the Army National Guard U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, The Adjutant General of Virginia U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Timothy Williams, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, four of Barfoot’s children, and other family members.
Since Barfoot was a member of the Choctaw Tribe, there was a significant presence of Native American tribal members from the area who performed authentic songs and dances and honored one of their own.
To this day, the 1-157th honors the undeniable sacrifices of those who served before them. While the lineage of the 157th Regiment is tied to the 169th Field Artillery Brigade in Colorado, 157th Infantry is carrying on the proud tradition of infantry service in the state.
The 1-157th Infantry Regiment is headquartered at the North Colorado Springs Readiness Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and proudly showcases their history in the facility’s display cases as well as naming all four conference rooms after each of the four Medal of Honor recipients attributed to the regiment during WWII, including Barfoot. In addition, the unit annually holds Tomahawk ceremonies which are leadership validation challenges that test their Soldiers on technical and tactical tasks as well as cultural and historical knowledge of Colorado Infantry.
“The current 157th shares mission accomplishment with the 157th of WWII,” Cole said. “The 157th of the past served over 511 days of continuous combat and was reconstituted two-and-a-half times during the war, but their leaders up to and including General [George] Patton were assured that the 157th would accomplish their mission. Today we combine the multiple heritages of the Colorado Infantry and some of the greatest lessons we can observe come from the 157th in WWII. They have set a high bar for what we should be prepared to do when called upon.”
Coincidentally, on the same day as the renaming ceremony honoring one of the heroes of the 157th, 150 miles away at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, the remains of U.S. Army Pfc. Francis Martin, Company D, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry, were being interred more than 75 years after he was killed in Europe. Martin was buried as an unknown Soldier in Belgium and recently identified by DNA testing and dental records by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. U.S. Army Capt. Philip Schweinsberg, commander, D 1-157 and his senior enlisted leader, 1st Sgt. Daniel Brenanman, attended the interment.