By Ms. Marie Berberea (TRADOC)June 5, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. -- When Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald passed the Fires Center of Excellence colors on and Maj. Gen. John Rossi took hold, the FCoE marked a new chapter in history by welcoming an air defense artillery Soldier as the new commanding general.
"All of [Training and Doctrine Command] stands with you as you take on the challenges of the future. We have the utmost confidence that you will take the Fires Center to new heights and build upon the legendary strengths of the Lawton-Fort Sill community," said Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, TRADOC deputy commanding general and chief of staff.
Mangum said Rossi is a proven leader who excelled in peace and war and has successfully led Soldiers at every level from platoon to major command. While new to Fort Sill, Rossi is no stranger to the Air Defense Artillery School after serving as deputy commanding general and chief of staff at Fort Bliss, Texas. Most recently Rossi served at the Pentagon in the Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office.
As the salute battery fired cannons in Rossi's honor, plumes of smoke rose toward the sky where a water tower stood in the background with a bright air defense artillery emblem marking it's northern face.
"The Army is a learning institution. Education doesn't stop when your hair gets gray and the bifocals replace the Ray-Bans. Even generals are continually developed as leaders. So thank you General Odierno, General Perkins for allowing me this privilege to command, specifically to command Fort Sill, with all of its rich traditions and history; heralded and famed community support; performing a critical mission for our Army and where I have not served before. My blood flows OD green and I'm ready to look, listen, learn and lead right here," said Rossi.
Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald said he was excited to have a hand in picking his successor and he said after working with Rossi in the United States Forces Iraq he knew what Rossi was capable of.
"I worked with him in the toughest of times … there were rough days and I never saw him lose his cool, his perspective. So I know you're the right man to take this," said McDonald.
McDonald and his wife Connie are moving to Huntsville, Ala. where he will take command of United States Army Security Assistance Command.
Mangum said McDonald's many talents left an impression on the Fires Center and they will be used in his future career.
"He led the modernization of our fires capabilities throughout the Army filling critical gaps in all warfighting functions, as well as landmark changes to our Army as Division Artilleries returned yet again to our formations and [Terminal High Altitude Air Defense] deployed to protect us around the world. It is safe to say that Mark has advanced the fires warfighting function in every conceivable way," said Mangum.
Mangum remarked on McDonald's accomplishments of not only taking care of the 35,000 people living and working on Fort Sill, but on his work fostering a great relationship with the 26,000 retirees in the area.
"He also masterfully shepherded the community through furloughs and government shutdowns - no easy task," said Mangum.
McDonald said he could not have accomplished those tasks without the help from everyone on his staff and on the installation.
As the ceremony continued and each Soldier executed precision movements on the field, McDonald commented on their job well done.
"I really have two things I want to talk about. One, I'm thankful and two, I'm proud. Look at these Soldiers out on the field today. There's only one Soldier who has executed an improper facing movement and it's me," said McDonald.
After 34 years, this is the fifth time the McDonalds have said goodbye to Fort Sill.
"This has been a dream job for me. There is no other job I wanted more than this and it has been spectacular. I have to go and I know if I return again it will be as a visitor and that makes me kind of sad. 'Cause we love this place. But don't worry about us - just like Oklahoma we'll be OK," said McDonald.
McDonald thanked those who helped make his time here special. He ended his list of thanks by talking about his wife and first lady of Fort Sill.
"Most of the time when I try to talk about Connie, I get choked up so I usually just don't talk about her. But I gotta tell you you are my special strength, you're my buddy, my partner … without Connie I would be a heap of beer-stained denim."
"Seriously, thank you for everything. Connie and I have had the time of our lives. Team Sill. Oklahoma Pride. Fires Strong."