By Mitch Meador, Fort Sill TribuneJune 7, 2018
FORT SILL, Okla. (June 7, 2018) -- The Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Branch will celebrate its golden jubilee anniversary in June with two days of events, branch chief Brig. Gen. Randall McIntire said.
June 20, 1968, was the effective date of General Order 25 spinning off the ADA branch from field artillery, but the 50-year anniversary has been moved up a week to coincide with the Army's 243rd birthday.
"We were very purposeful in planning this for over a year," said Dave Christensen, ADA Command historian.
A special edition of the "Fires Bulletin" and a commemorative coin have been prepared for the grand occasion. The 30th ADA Brigade and Fort Sill Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation have put together a smorgasbord of activities to make this a first-class event, said Christensen. These include a 50th Anniversary Oozlefinch Golf Scramble that takes its name from the branch mascot, tours of the ADA footprint, a Jubilee Ball, a "Throwback" Run, three leadership panels led by former ADA battery commanders and McIntire's "State of the Branch" wrap-up.
"I think it's going to be a great way to get re-acquainted, see what we're doing here at Fort Sill now that we've been here for almost 10 years, and understand that this is truly the home of air defense now. That was reflected in the last Fires Conference. A lot of our graybeards have said that Fort Sill is definitely home now and I think for those who are hesitant in coming, they need to come and see that," Christensen said.
The jubilee will be June 14-15. It is open to all active-duty military and the general public. Registration is by cafeteria plan.
Maj. Drew McCollum, deputy commanding officer of the 30th ADA Brigade, says all of it is free except for the Golf Scramble, the Jubilee Ball, and the June 15 lunch at the Fort Sill Conference Center. To register, you can go online at https:go.usa.gov/xQ7Vu and pay only for those events you want to attend. Registration will continue until the close of business on June 11.
Here's the rest of the schedule:
7 a.m. -- Registration for 50th Anniversary Oozlefinch Golf Scramble, Fort Sill Golf Course. Cost is $40 plus an online processing fee. Tickets include green fees, cart, and door prize ticket. Prizes will be given to the top three teams, longest drive, closest to the pin, and door prize giveaway.
8 a.m.-1 p.m. -- Shotgun start of Golf Scramble
1-2 p.m. -- Closing/awards at the Golf Course Club House
5-10 p.m. -- Jubilee Ball at the Patriot Club. Cost of the ball is $25 per person plus an online processing fee. Cocktail hour is from 5-6 p.m., dinner/ceremony is from 6-9 p.m., and dancing is from 9-10 p.m. Guest speaker will be Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commanding general of Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Huntsville, Ala.
There will be a tattoo in honor of retired Maj. Gen. Donald Infante, who served as commanding general of Fort Bliss, Texas, for four years and is credited with reworking the Patriot missile system to intercept tactical ballistic missiles in the days leading up to Operation Desert Storm. The special edition of the "Fires Bulletin" is likewise dedicated to Infante.
Brig. Gen. James Shipton, first commandant of the Air Defense Anti-aircraft School in France in World War I, will be represented by two of his grandchildren.
6-7:30 a.m. -- "Throwback" Run on Prichard Field, led by Brig. Gen. Randall McIntire and Command Sgt. Maj. Finis Dodson. Wear your oldest article of ADA clothing. The run begins at the Stinger Statue, goes east on Randolph Road to McNair Hall, then turns around and heads past the Patriot Club and proceeds west on Upton Road to the ADA Bandstand on Prichard Field. Runners will encircle the bandstand for closing remarks. Food and water will be available.
9 a.m. -- leadership panel, Fort Sill Conference Center. Silver Star recipient and retired Col. Vincent Tedesco II will speak from 9-10 a.m. about his experience as a battery commander in Vietnam. Retired Col. Joe DeAntonio will speak from 10-11 a.m. of being a Gulf War battery commander.
Silver Star recipient Col. Charles Branson, 108th ADA Brigade commander, will speak from 11 a.m. to noon of his battery command during Operation Iraqi Freedom. At noon MWR catering will serve lunch at a cost of $17 per person.
1-3 p.m. -- Brig. Gen. Randall McIntire, ADA School commandant and chief of ADA, will deliver his "ADA State of the Branch."
Now a bit of background on why the Army gave ADA its own branch. Here's how Christensen tells the story:
"Of all generals, it was a field artillery general, General (David) Ott, who said of the air defenders, 'They're becoming jacks of all trades and masters of none.' And with the different missions that we were doing, especially at the height of Vietnam, from '65 to '72, the '68 Tet (Offensive), everything that's going on with Vietnam, field artillery guys are shooting cannons. Air defenders, who are still in artillery, are monitoring the Nike missions, the Herc and the Ajax missions, across the post, which is a real sophisticated, hard-to-know mission and they're supposed to provide air cover in Vietnam with the Dusters (and) Quads.
"So you had young officers, (retired Lt. Col.) John Mania, (former deputy commandant of the ADA School), was a Nike Hercules officer. Now you ship him off to Vietnam as an artilleryman and put him in what we would call a field artillery unit. What is he going to do? And so he commanded an HHB (Headquarters and Headquarters Battery), of all things.
"So with the different job traits, different aptitudes, different perishable knowledge sets that officers had ... The (enlisted) Soldiers were kind of in their own branches. If you were a 16 or a 13, 16 being an air defender, you always stayed with your sets. But officers didn't do that. You'd work Nike Ajax, then go to a Paladin unit. So how are you going to maneuver Paladins and support combat, and then turn around and understand Nike Herc and Nike Ajax at a strategic level?
"So General Ott kept petitioning that these two branches have to split, that their skill set is just totally different and (with) what they bring in wartime, you can't have a jack of all trades. Now you might get away with it in peace. From the Korean War till Vietnam it seemed they could make this work. But in wartime they found out they couldn't."
Air defenders had been training at Fort Bliss since World War II. That included everything from the machine gunner on a B-17 to Nike Ajax crews. Bliss became ADA's first home because of the mission set it already had and the training it did on the 16-series military occupational specialties.