Army leaders gather at Fort Sill for Fires Seminar

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FORT SILL, Okla. (AP) - The future is bright for both the Field Artillery and the Air Defense Artillery, Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald said during a break from the 2014 Fires Seminar, an event that draws top leaders in those two Army branches to Fort Sill each year.

“There’s room for growth, even in these austere times, in air defense artillery,” he told The Lawton Constitution (http://bit.ly/1bmgJ2p). “Field artillery will always be there to help us provide fires along with maneuver. We just need to ensure it’s modernized and we’re moving out.”

The international presence at the conference is important because the U.S. will never fight alone, McDonald said.

“We’ll fight with our allies just like we have since World War I, and so for them to be here and share their information and share their ideas is invaluable,” he said.

Booths in the corridors of Snow Hall showcased what Fort Sill and both halves of the Fires Center of Excellence that Mc-Donald commands have to offer. In addition, the trade show attracts many top players of the defense industry.

“We’ve got a lot of things to showcase across the board. And we do want everybody to see what’s at Fort Sill. We’re proud of Fort Sill, and it’s never looked better,” the commanding general said.

The number of vendors has increased significantly since last year. Thirty companies have 186 representatives here, and some of those companies have multiple booths. There are more than 70 booths in all.

Approximately 500 people registered for the conference itself.

“Every year we do it we say it’s the most important one we’ve ever done. But that’s probably accurate, because we keep moving forward,” McDonald said shortly after the 2014 Fires Seminar began last week.

“This year we’re really focusing on futures. (Tuesday) we’re going to cover what we’re doing, but we’ve got our researchers and developers from across the country. We challenged them to come back with some solutions for us. They’re going to bring it, and we’re going to have a great conversation and see where it takes us,” he said.

It’s important for the U.S. to look 10, 20 or 30 years down the road because other people are doing the same and the U.S. needs to stay ahead of them, Mc-Donald said.

“We win because we have great soldiers. But our great soldiers are also the best equipped on the battlefield. So with that combination we’ll continue to win,” he said.

Fort Sill will get feedback from attendees for the next several weeks. Officials will take the information they gain and synthesize it into development of concepts in the future systems.

Fort Sill is already working to clear ranges to test electric fires - the capability of using high-powered microwave, lasers and electromagnetic propulsion.

During opening remarks, McDonald introduced the two-star general who will succeed him here in June, Maj. Gen. John Rossi. Attendees had a brief opportunity to get acquainted with him while he was here, the host general noted. McDonald also made a surprise announcement on Tuesday:

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