By Mitch MeadorFebruary 13, 2020
FORT SILL, Oklahoma, Feb. 13, 2020 -- Though Col. Mark Holler was here only nine months as commandant of the Air Defense Artillery (ADA) School and chief of the ADA branch, Fort Sill's commanding general credited him with changing not only ADA but also the Army itself.
A Feb. 3 retreat ceremony in Holler's honor was moved indoors due to the weather. Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, commanding general of Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence, said that if he was coming up with a term to describe the honoree, it would be along the lines of "quiet professional."
"It's not about the length of experience, it's about the quality of experience, and the quality of Mark's experience could not have been any better," Shoffner said.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that he has been absolutely instrumental in several major changes underway, not just in the air defense artillery but in our Army," said the general.
Integrated air and missile defense is in the top five priorities for Army modernization, and the amount of federal dollars spent on air and missile defense is in the billions, he noted.
"It's a big, big deal, and we've got to get that right," Shoffner said.
The return of short-range air defense (SHORAD) means the ADA branch will be getting a lot bigger. Holler came out of SHORAD, and he has been in the forefront of that effort along with the team in the ADA commandant's office. The Army is just in the beginning stages of bringing back SHORAD, and Shoffner predicted it will take more than one commandant to get it done.
"But Mark has put us on a foundation to be able to do that the right way. It's not just the equipment that's required to do that. It's not just Stinger, and Avenger, and IFPC (Indirect Fire Protection Capability) and M(aneuver)-SHORAD. It's everything else that goes on, especially here in Snow Hall, with regard to bringing those capabilities into the force," Shoffner said.
One of the things Holler has focused on is rigor in all aspects of air and missile defense training. It's a bit more challenging to introduce rigor into ADA programs of instruction because students learning the weapon systems are inside a facility for a couple reasons. One, they use massive amounts of electrical power, so they can't do it out on Thompson Hill very easily or for a long period of time, Shoffner said. Also, what they're learning is all classified.
The commanding general credited Holler and Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Burnley with being really creative in figuring out ways to get that warrior spirit into everything the Soldiers do.
When it comes to accessions, ADA is an easy sell for recruiters at West Point or ROTC compared with field artillery. ADA has so many career opportunities, Shoffner pointed out.
"You can go from SHORAD to Patriot to THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Air Defense) to (AN/TPY-2 missile defense) radar. You can do other things in the branch. You can go to the strategic level, you can work in space, and then go all the way back to SHORAD, or any combination in between. There's really no other branch that offers that breadth of opportunities, and Mark has made steady progress across all aspects of air and missile defense," Shoffner said.
ADA has seen a 10 percent increase in cadet accessions over the previous year, which the general finds "pretty remarkable."
As part of the ceremony, Shoffner presented Holler the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious service while serving as the ADA School commandant.
Holler's next assignment will be to command 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Field, Hawaii. Shoffner called it "the premier one-star command for the air defense artillery. It's a really big deal to the joint force, because that's how we fight air and missile defense, is through our AAMDCs."
The 94th is responsible for the entire Pacific region, he noted.
Appropriately, Holler would conclude his farewell remarks with a big "aloha."
"I'm extremely grateful to have had the honor and the privilege to serve as the 43rd commandant of the air defense artillery. I think it is one of the most impactful jobs that I've ever had the opportunity to serve in," he said, personally thanking the members of his team one by one for creating "irreversible momentum in the areas of doctrine, organization, leader development, training, and personnel."