Fort Sill said goodbye to Post Commander Major General David Ralston on Thursday. He has retired from the U.S. Army after 32 years of service and a traditional and emotional ceremony was held for him at the Old Post Quadrangle. Newly promoted Major General Peter Vangjel has now assumed the role of Commanding General of the Army Post.
The ceremony was steeped in military tradition but there was one thing that was a bit unusual. Major General Vangjel received his second star just before taking his command. Soldiers, Airmen and Marines paid their respects in this "Hail and Farewell".
City and State Officials, friends and family all gathered together to give one last goodbye to Major General Ralston and to welcome Major General Vangjel as the new head of the "Army Fires Center of Excellence. "For 32 years, you have given your all to our nation. With this change of command and retirement, we know you will take the uniform off, but you will never stop being a soldier or a leader," said General Caldwell.
General Ralston has commanded Fort Sill for just over two years and made a final inspection of Fort Sill Troops before handing the reins over to General Vangjel. It was an emotional day for General Ralston who said that being at Fort Sill on the day of his retirement was "like a day in heaven." And, just as Ralston leaves the service, his son begins. Just last week he commissioned his own son as a Second Lieutenant in the Army and in his own branch - Field Artillery.
Both Generals were honored for their service with cannon fire followed by an official exchange of command. But, this isn't General Vangjel's first trip to Fort Sill - he trained here. "It's good to be back in Lawton, Oklahoma and Fort Sill," he said. He expressed his excitement about BRAC plans for the post and the addition of the Air Defense Artillery School.
"I see a bright future for the field artillery. I think our officers are going to be challenged in a number of different ways and I look forward to our NCO's coming on and telling us how it's done," said Vangjel. He's eager to begin his command and is excited about Lawton's cooperation. "This community is the most generous, the most friendly and really the most supportive community that I've experienced in 30 years," he said. Military tradition runs in General Vangjel's family; he has a son who is an Army Ranger on his fourth deployment overseas.