A crucial element of the 82nd Airborne Division's "King of Battle," the 18th Fires Brigade received its new commander June 24, as Col. Wilson A. Shoffner assumed command of the unit, which was commanded by Col. Christopher F. Bentley for the past two years.

The XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg Deputy Commanding General Maj. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn served as reviewing officer of the ceremony, during which he welcomed Shoffner, his wife, Carron, and their daughter, Kristin, back to the 82nd Airborne Division and XVIII Airborne Corps Family.

"This is a special day for Al and the Shoffner Family," Allyn said during the ceremony. "So to Carron and Kristin, welcome back to the Fort Bragg team. Our Family is already stronger."

Shoffner brings 21 years of Army experience to the brigade as he returns to the 82nd Airborne Division. His prior assignments with the division include: commander, Battery B, 3rd Bn. 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regt. and Headquarters and Headquarters Co. 82nd Airborne Division in 1994. He served as artillery fire support coordinator in 2000 before serving as deputy chief of plans for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Allied Rapid Reaction Corps in Rheindahlen, Germany. He returned to Fort Bragg in 2005 and has remained here since, deploying to New Orleans in support of Joint Task Force Katrina as commander of the 2nd Bn., 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment. In 2007, Shoffner's battalion was part of the "surge," as the unit served as a maneuver task force during its 14-month deployment to Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Allyn pointed out the importance of Shoffner's and his unit's role in the division's battleplan.
"General Dwight Eisenhower, who served as Supreme Allied commander in Europe during World War II once said of the artillery, and I quote, 'the speed, accuracy and devastating power of American artillery won competence and admiration from the troops it supported and inspired fear and respect in their enemy,'" Allyn said. "I can personally attest to this fact during the 'Marne Division's' march into Baghdad in 2003."

Allyn said the 3rd Infantry Division's rapid advance to Baghdad would not have been possible had it not been for "the precision, the lethality and the responsiveness of our artillery."

"Today, over six years later, our nation is still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan and our battle-proven artillerymen remain integral to every success we attain," Allyn said. "The 18th Fires Brigade and its troopers represented on the field today and those constantly deployed, continue to deliver decisive, precision fire support to our deployed commanders and troopers.

"It gives me great pleasure to join you today to welcome another battle-proven artilleryman back to Fort Bragg, to the 18th Fires Brigade and the All-American and XVIII Airborne Corps teams," he added. "The Army has, yet again, chosen the very best for this premier command."

Shoffner, a native of Fort Sill, Okla. and a 1988 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, thanked all of his well-wishers for attending the ceremony. He said he looks forward to commanding the Army's premier artillery unit.

"To the troopers on the field, I am honored by the opportunity to join your ranks and look forward to the challenges that lie ahead," he said. "You have a proud history and a well-earned reputation for excellence. You are the cutting edge of the field artillery for our Army. You have distinguished yourselves while performing as artillerymen, as infantrymen and in other non-standard roles, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan. It is a privilege to be counted among your ranks."

Deputy Brigade Commander Maj. Joe D. Bookard served as commander of troops during the ceremony. Following his speech, Shoffner stood at the podium and watched as his Soldiers conducted a pass-in-review before the viewing stand.