FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Dec. 4, 2019) -- Fort Sill kicked off the holiday season with its annual tree lighting ceremony Dec. 3, in front of McNair Hall. Holiday tunes filled the air as hundreds of service members and their families celebrated with post leaders, and of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Sgt. Matthew Wiley, 77th Army Band, got the crowd into the holiday spirit with a rendition of "White Christmas." The song started off slow, and then its tempo and volume took off like an artillery round. Next he and the band performed "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town."

There were a couple power glitches during the band's performance, but it was "just something to build up the anticipation," said Wiley, who didn't miss a beat.

Master of Ceremonies Monica Guthrie, Futures Command communications director, welcomed the crowd and gave a brief history of the post highlighting its 150th anniversary.

"Fort Sill was founded not far from where we are … January 8, 1869," she said, "by Maj. Gen. Phillip Sheridan."

About 30 Freedom Elementary School fifth-graders sang: "O Christmas Tree," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Jingle Bell Rock," and "Merry Christmas to You from the Red, White, and Blue." It's something the post schools have been doing for about eight years, said Terry Looney, Freedom music teacher.

The Fort Sill Artillery Half-Section Soldiers fired their 75mm French cannon, and their horses delivered Santa and Mrs. Claus, who joined Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, on center stage.

"My theme tonight is family," the general said. For Soldiers and Marines it's important to think about three families: your immediate family, your extended family, and third, your Army or Marine family.

Santa and Shoffner then flipped an oversized switch to turn on the holiday tree lights to the cheers, squeals and oohs of children.

Guests were treated to hot chocolate provided by Corvias, a sponsor of the event.