By Marie Berberea, Fort SillMay 3, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Maj. Gen. David Halverson has been in the Army almost 33 years, with the last 33 months spent as the commanding general of the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill. He is now transitioning to his new position as deputy commanding general/chief of staff of Training and Doctrine Command.
"Karen and I have loved every minute here because it's a privilege to command," said Halverson. "It seems just like yesterday when I took my first PT test, but it's made us very youthful and appreciative of this great nation that we have and the people of Southwest Oklahoma."
Sitting down for his exit interview April 27, every question sparked a story about Fort Sill Soldiers and civilians. From the deployed units to the many volunteers to Costello's Own, the 77th Army Band's bagpipers, his pride showed through his words as he said what Team Sill has accomplished.
"I think it shows how great the actual human is, the American Soldier. Sometimes we inhibit ourselves because we just go to our strengths, but when you actually open yourself out and you err in discovery you actually can grow more," Halverson said referring to his favorite quote "Man in the Arena," by Theodore Roosevelt.
"And, you can see these young kids that have never played bagpipes and they get committed or volunteer to do this and guess what? They can be experts," he said.
During his tenure, Halverson has seen the Fires community come to fruition. He said the combination of air defense artillery and field artillery will continue to be on the leading edge of national security and defense by preventing, shaping and winning wars with offensive and defensive capabilities.
"To be the [commanding general] and see this transformation that we've done here within the Fires Center of Excellence has been a hallmark of my career because it shows if you put a team together, and that's what we call Team Sill, all of us are our most precious resource. We focus ourselves on readiness. We use innovation and new techniques to solve complex tough issues. We know and we leverage our diversity as a strength and we're prideful with everything to do with our history. We work as hard as our ancestors did and we're committed to this excellence and that's when you have Oklahoma PRIDE," said Halverson.
His influence on Fort Sill actually began in 2004 when he was the deputy assistant commandant of the Field Artillery School. He helped start up the Joint and Combined Directorate and his influence here will continue as he is merely taking a step back to help guide more centers of excellence.
"We've kind of set a standard of what a center of excellence is about, and I do believe as we are growing the Maneuver Center of Excellence and others we can probably look at a great base line of how we want to do our enterprising. I look forward to looking across all of TRADOC now and in today's environment really looking at where we can optimize our leader development and optimize our concept development," said Halverson.
Halverson said besides training Soldiers here he is especially proud of the Graham Resiliency Training Center as it will continue to help Soldiers and family members in very important ways. He spoke of the difficulties the Grahams went through and how they are an example of how to overcome the obstacles that come along with serving in the military.
"Mark and Carol Graham are great people -- an artillerist family who sacrificed so much these last 10 years with all the struggles that war gives you. The hidden pain which is suicide for the one son and then the pain for being a Gold Star family after someone is killed in Iraq. So the resiliency center is really an opportunity for people to get fit to fight morally, mentally, physically and spiritually so they can handle some of the struggles we have," said Halverson.
He said the other aspect he has tried to focus on during his time at Fort Sill is shaping educational opportunities and promoting education to the troops. This task was helped by the partnership with Cameron University.
"These young kids now are going to be the ones that will be our Soldiers," said Halverson.
He added that focusing on science, technology, engineering and math will go a long way for joint fires.
"We have to have a lot of engineers because we do things all the way from space to mud like we say with our joint forward observers all the way up to our ballistic missile defense."
He credits CU president Dr. Cindy Ross with her ability to bring resources and excite the people of Oklahoma about the educational opportunities at Cameron and on Fort Sill.
"We have a lot of capabilities that most universities don't have. They can just roll right outside and in 15 minutes be here and we have a world class range and immersive environment that they can partake to ensure that they're gaining their military science that they need to be a good officer in our Army," said Halverson.
He said he is personally making sure there are more engineers as his daughter, Anna, graduated from Lawton High School and is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Notre Dame. He said his daughter Ellen, is a junior at Lawton High School and also wants to study engineering.
Halverson added living at Fort Sill has allowed him to see his oldest daughter Lindsey, her husband, Tyler, and son, David, more often because they live in Oklahoma City.
As for his time in command, he said he could not have done it without the love and support of his wife, Karen.
"Karen is just a dynamic Army wife, even though she was a naval officer, she's a heck of an Army wife and she's very engaged in the education and the volunteer work," Halverson said with a smile. "To see all the people from the YMCA to the Helping Hands is just unique and Karen has been a big part of that and I just couldn't thank her enough for all of her love and support that she's done for the families and the Soldiers here at Fort Sill and Lawton."
Halverson is passionate about the Fires center of Excellence and his passion will carry on to his next mission of molding the "Army of 2020." He said commanding the Fires Center of Excellence will definitely influence his next position.
"As I see ourselves for 2020, I do see this as joint combined warfare and our ability to really get at the heart of architectural issues and certification issues and I think Fort Sill with its great support here from the community is known as world class and will continue to be a world class place where people want to come and certify their people on this complex issue called joint fires," said Halverson.
When asked if he has changed from the first day of taking command until now he said the only difference he can see are gray hairs. He said he has tried to remain true to himself in making all the difficult decisions that come with commanding a post.
"Everyone will tell you what you should do when you're in command ... what's most important is you look yourself in the mirror and you kind of ensure that you have the competence that you need; you have the caring that you need for your people; and that you have the character to make the right decisions, because you do make a lot of decisions in life and I think as long as you can stay true to yourself, true to the Army and country and serve it selflessly then you'll be OK and hopefully we've done that."
Halverson will relinquish his command May 4 to Maj. Gen. James "Mark" McDonald. There will be a change of command ceremony on the Old Post Quadrangle at 9 a.m. He said although change is difficult he knows he is leaving the post in good hands.
"What you have to do is stop the good ideas that you've had and understand that it is just an aspect of command that you have to give up. It's not about you it's about the unit and the smooth transition for your unit to commander to commander," said Halverson.
"We're very blessed to have Mark and Connie back here at Fort Sill," he said. "Mark is a great warfighter and warrior and they'll be huge contributors."
The last thing Halverson said he and his family will leave Fort Sill with is pride.
"We do feel blessed that we've been able to live in the Sherman house for these last 33 months just like some great tremendous world leaders that have lived there before. It has been a very reflective time these last few weeks because you think a lot about what you've accomplished and it's just been a very dynamic and historic time to have been here and we are very proud of all the people on our team here that have just done world class work for our country and for our great Army."