Sill CG returns to familiar place
The new commanding general of Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence has returned to his birthplace at a time of great change and upheaval.
Maj. Gen. Wilson Shoffner was born at the old Reynolds Army Community Hospital, now the Welcome Center (Building 4700 on Mow-Way Road), and lived here till about age 4. He was back here to attend what was then Central Junior High in grades 7-9 and lived on Fort Sill at that time.
His mother, the late Beverly Beauchamp Shoffner, was sister to former Superintendent of Lawton Public Schools Barry Beauchamp, and she once worked for The Lawton Constitution.
"In fact, my family has lived in the area for over a hundred years and I still have family in the area in Southwest Oklahoma," he told a pool of local reporters on Friday.
"It's good to be back at the place I consider home. I've had ties to this community for as long as I can remember, and it's exciting to be able to rekindle those ties, and do so while helping the community."
It was not a given that he would follow a military career like his father, the late Wilson A. ("Dutch") Shoffner. His parents were supportive but did not push him one way or the other. They did encourage both the general and his brother, retired Army Col. Andy Shoffner, to pursue a college education of some sort.
This is his first actual assignment at Fort Sill, other than standard training in his chosen branch. Upon graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1988 he came here for Field Artillery Officer Basic Course (now called the Basic Officer Leader Course or BOLC) and the Field Artillery Advanced Course (the Captains' Career Course of today).
He served in field artillery positions from second lieutenant up to colonel. As a colonel he had the chance to serve on Capitol Hill as the Army liaison to the U.S. House of Representatives.
He says a variety of experiences and assignments as a general officer have contributed to preparing him for his role here. He was a deputy commanding general for Fort Bliss, Texas, and 1st Armored Division. He was next responsible for plans, training and operations for Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Fort Eustis, Va., the higher headquarters for the Fires Center.
"It's a great honor to be back on the TRADOC team and to be able to help the Army as we transform our force," Shoffner said.
After his stint at TRADOC he deployed for a year to Afghanistan, where he served as spokesman for NATO's Resolute Support Mission and also as the chief of public affairs.
His next two postings were at the Pentagon. He was first responsible for the Army's Talent Management Task Force. Immediately prior to taking command here he was director of operations for the Army's Rapid Capabilities Office, a position expected to stand him in good stead in his new job.
"Our No. 1 focus here is readiness," Shoffner said. That holds true for any Fires leader here, whether on the training side or in the deployable combat units.
"Our training base is fairly large. In fact, if you think about our annual population, 83 percent of that population over 40,000 soldiers are in our training base. Those are soldiers or officers, even Marines, that are here for one training opportunity or another.
"Fort Sill is one of four locations in the Army where we conduct basic combat training. That's taking civilians and making them into soldiers. That is a critically important mission, not just for Fort Sill but for our Army, so it is very important we get that right.