FORT SILL, Okla.-- Soldiers and civilians welcomed Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald as their new commanding general during a change of command ceremony May 4 at the Old Post Quadrangle.

Accepting the guidon from Lt. Gen. John Sterling Jr., Training and Doctrine Command deputy commanding general and chief of staff, McDonald succeeded Maj. Gen. David Halverson as the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill CG.

Sterling spoke of the significant changes at Fort Sill during Halverson's command then introduced all in attendance to their new two-star general.

"As it always does, the Army provided TRADOC and Fort Sill another energetic and capable commander to accept the colors and carry on. Major General Mark McDonald and his wife, Connie, bring enormous talent, experience and leadership. Mark is uniquely qualified to lead the Fires center and [face] the challenges to come in the months and years ahead," said Sterling.

Surveying the units arrayed on the quadrangle impressed the newly arrived general.

"Fires Soldiers you look magnificent," said McDonald. "Command Sergeant Major [Dwight] Morrisey and the NCOs, you're the backbone of this Army and the reason why this all looks so good."

Taking on the mantle of leadership here, Fort Sill is a recurring stop for McDonald. This is his fifth tour here where his Army career began almost 32 years prior to the date of the change of command ceremony when McDonald arrived as a second lieutenant at Fort Sill.

"You cannot imagine how excited Connie and I are to come home, it's a community like no other," he said. "Thanks to everyone who had a part in this; thanks to all the organizations on the field: to the three battle tested units with some of the hardest troops we've seen in decades, and two units of basic combat training Soldiers who represent those brave young Americans who will stand up, protect this country and keep it safe."

McDonald most recently served as the Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox (Ky.) commanding general. His awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, four Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars and the U.S. Master Parachutist badge. He has also received parachutist badges from Italy, Canada and Germany.

For as much as the ceremony recognized the change in leadership, it also served as a moment to honor the outgoing commanding general.

"There has been a lot going on around Training and Doctrine Command, but nothing was more important or far reaching than the big changes that took place here at Fort Sill under Dave Halverson," said Sterling. "He's had far more than the normal challenges and has managed them all superbly."

He commended Halverson for overseeing the tremendous number of Soldiers who passed through Fort Sill for basic combat training ensuring they received the best possible training as many would go from here into combat. Sterling also highlighted a shift in TRADOC to collective unit training. This replaced individuals going to training installations such as Fort Sill.

"With the rapid turn-around times of units re-equipping to go back to Afghanistan, many units looked to TRADOC for help doing training at home installations. Dave and the Fires center developed courses and mobile training teams to train units at their installations providing an enormous value to the Army and the operating units as they prepared for war," said Sterling.

His final point, the arrival of air defense artillery units and the ADA School, resulted in the most significant alteration to Fort Sill's landscape.

"Change is always challenging and big changes are always big challenges. This change was huge in terms of the amount of construction at Fort Sill, the changes to the Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery schools and the increase in population and new jobs in this community," said Sterling. "It is no exaggeration that the vision and competent leadership you provided has moved the creation of the Fires Center of Excellence forward in a way no other leader could have accomplished."

In addition to noting Halverson's impact at Fort Sill, Sterling thanked the citizens of the greater Lawton-Fort Sill community for everything they did to welcome the air defenders to Fort Sill.

"Your readiness to quickly integrate these air defense Soldiers, civilian employees and their families is a tremendous relief for that part of our TRADOC family that was confronted with all the stresses of relocating," he said. "There couldn't be a better sign for the great future for the Fires Center of Excellence than the welcoming [JUMP]outstretched hand of this community."

Sterling also expressed his appreciation for Halverson's wife and her service here.

"Karen your support to Dave and all he does for the Army and for the Soldiers and families at Fort Sill has been simply invaluable, and for that we can't thank you enough. Without a doubt no Army spouse has more impact on our Army than the involved spouses of one of our commanders of our TRADOC centers of excellence. You have made an indelible mark on countless Army families that will strengthen our Army for years to come," he said.

Stepping to the podium, Halverson said the Old Post Quadrangle formed a perfect backdrop for the ceremony citing the limestone buildings that stand as a reminder of the hard work everyone did.

"The Buffalo Soldiers built this post after the Civil War, and these buildings continue to show the great strength and resiliency of the U.S. Army," he said.

He then spoke of the blending of the cultures here, in part, represented by the Kiowa Black Leggings, who marched in the military parade and both gave and received appropriate honors.

For a general who championed the Oklahoma PRIDE ideal throughout his time here, Halverson especially thanked the greater community for their support and participation in Fort Sill events.

"Your support shows the depth and breadth it takes to be part of a team - this is about being a part of Team Sill, not about the Halversons," he said. "It's been a beautiful ride here for the Halversons, and we've been very blessed during this historic time. For everyone's support, we say thank you for what you do for our Soldiers and their families, for our community and for this great country."

He also thanked his wife for keeping him grounded and providing good feedback.

"The strength of our Soldiers is our families and that's why we're Army and Fires strong," he said.
McDonald concluded his remarks thanking his wife for her support. He emphasized that together they would carry forward efforts to take care of Soldiers and their families.

"Connie and I are dedicated to continuing the excellence that Karen and Dave have set here," he said. "Connie has great passion for Soldiers and families empowering and supporting them; she's been doing this for years and will continue to do that."