FORT SILL, Okla.-- Army personnel, active and retired, along with federal, state and local officials gathered May 16 for a reopening ceremony of Snow Hall. It preceded the Fires Center of Excellence State of Fires address and Fires brand unveiling by Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general.

The facility is the primary location for the field artillery and air defense artillery captains career course, the basic officer leader course, the pre-command course, the joint operational fires and effects course, and other training and development courses.

McDonald cut the ribbon at the ceremony. He was assisted by Brig. Gen. Brian McKiernan and Col. Daniel Karbler, FA and ADA commandants and chiefs of FA and ADA respectively; and Command Sgts. Maj. Sam Young and David Carr, FA and ADA CSMs.

"For a lot of people Snow Hall holds a special spot in their hearts. It really is a special facility and provided the leadership and skills training that have given our country the ability to beat the Soviet Union in the Cold War and to take our Soldiers to the battlefields the past 10 years and in Vietnam, Panama and the Gulf War," said McDonald.

The renovations and improvements included high-efficiency fluorescent lighting, upgraded data and telecommunications equipment, increased access to secure and nonsecure networks, and upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Also, should need arise, the renovations allow for expansion of classrooms and other key infrastructure. Improvements were funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Annually about 3,000 students receive training at Snow Hall.

The general called the facility the "hallmark of Fort Sill" and was pleased to see air defense artillery on one side and field artillery on the other.

"This is indicative of how well we've integrated these two schools," he said. "This is the best facility, and we will once again display excellence in training the finest Fires leaders we have ever seen."

Inside, displays highlighted field artillery and air defense artillery history and further inside exhibits from the 2012 Fires Seminar.

Seminar participants then filed into Reimer Conference Center where McDonald delivered his State of Fires address. Toward the end, McDonald directed a video to roll that showcased the various FA and ADA weapons systems in action leading to the new Fires bird logo, which concluded the video.

The updated brand further defined the Fires logo featuring the ADA and FA symbols. He said the two branches have always had their separate identities, and the new brand is not an effort to change that. He likened the new logo to those associated with major sporting goods manufacturers, whose emblems, standing alone with no further explanation, suggest quality products, athleticism and excellence.

Maj. Gen. David Halverson, the previous FCoE and Fort Sill commanding general, initiated the redesign in late 2011. He wanted a logo that, "captured the Fires Soldiers' physical and mental toughness, as well as Fires' precision capabilities." Also, he wanted the image to reflect the loyalty, adaptability, flexibility and motivation of the Fires force.

The design became a collaborative effort between Oklahoma University's Gaylord School of Journalism and a project team from the FCoE Office of Strategic Communications. The final product was said to embody the strength and endurance of FA and ADA Soldiers and pulls both branches into one family: the Fires force.

McDonald said the symbol's red wing and gold body represent the two branches coming together. He added all the uses of the previous symbols are still good.

"As we go along, we'll start adding the Fires bird on here, and maybe in 10 or 15 years we might just have the bird and Fires, and then maybe just the bird and that's all anyone needs to know," he said.