FORT SILL, Okla. (June 6, 2019) -- After a 36-year military career distinguished by many firsts, Brig. Gen. Randall McIntire has managed to squeeze in one more: He's the first air defense artillery (ADA) general to make Lawton his retirement home.

At an awards ceremony that preceded his retirement ceremony here May 31, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commander of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, said the nation owes a great debt of gratitude to McIntire and his wife, Sue Ellen, for what they have done.

"What a fabulous career that they have both had in the United States Army. We thank you very much for everything you've done. Six combat tours, 13-plus PCS moves, all the hard jobs that Randy has had.

"His career is probably marked by the firsts. First one to stand up 3-3 (3rd Battalion, 3rd ADA) C-RAM (Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar) battalion. First one to stand up the CFT (Cross Functional Team) for air and missile defense here at Fort Sill. The first to move into new facilities there at Fort Hood, Texas. The first to stand up the 15th Patriot battalion, the 1-62. So Randy's kind of the fire man. That just tells you the quality of leader that Randy is, in terms of doing things for the first time, inspiring Soldiers to be able to do that and then making a unit able to deploy in a very short period of time," Dickinson said.

Dickinson pinned on McIntire's Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious service to the government before going on to present Sue Ellen McIntire the Meritorious Service Medal and the Order of the Red Legacy for the impact she has made on the Lawton-Fort Sill community, the Fires Center of Excellence, and the Army.

"I'm still trying to come to grips with what it means (to retire) because I've been doing this since I was 17 and being a Soldier's obviously a huge part," McIntire told reporters after the ceremony. As for what his feelings are, "definitely pride in the ability to serve, and hopefully I made a difference."

Why did the McIntires choose to settle in Lawton?

"We started thinking about a lot of factors. And what I realized, being here almost three years, we really liked the values of Oklahoma. We got great medical care here. And what you're starting to see is the transition from that BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) move of 2009. It's taken a decade, and now you're seeing air defenders saying, 'This is our new home.' And I want to be a part of that, because I've got family and friends who are close by, and this just made perfect sense," the general said.

When McIntire was commissioned a second lieutenant through the Western Illinois University ROTC program in 1988, he never dreamed he would be standing on a parade ground 31 years later retiring as a general.

"I was just trying to get some education benefits, get a little bit older, and really when I went to become a commissioned officer, it was all just about trying to make my dad salute me. That was probably what inspired and drove me the most," he said.

"And then just one opportunity after the next happened. You just get on this train. You have a love of Soldiers and the people, and you just keep wanting to be a part of that," said McIntire.

He said he "absolutely" plans to be a frequent visitor at Fort Sill.

"I love this post. It's got a great charm about it. One of the criteria that we had was, we need to be close to an Army post. And of all the ones that we've been, Fort Sill won our hearts."

McIntire considers transforming the air and missile defense force to be his biggest accomplishment while here. He modernized it, and was able to secure a lot of resources and make ADA an Army priority.

When Army leaders decided to bring back short-range air defense (SHORAD), it fell to him to perform what Dickinson called "the Herculean task" of refreshing and condensing the program of instruction for the shoulder-mounted Stinger MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense System).

"What I'd like to say is, it's been a privilege to be a Soldier. When I started out, I never would have thought in my wildest dreams that it would have gone as long as it did and I would have the opportunities that I did. But if I had to do it all over again, I'd be a Soldier, and I'd marry the same woman," McIntire said.

During his tour of duty here, McIntire served as commandant of the ADA School, chief of the ADA branch, and director of the Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team.