Cannon says goodbye to squadron

By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

For seven years, the Republic of Singapore’s air force shared the eastern New Mexico skies with Cannon Air Force Base. That relationship is coming to an end next month.
On July 6, the 428th Singaporean Fighter Squadron will be deactivated.
“The decision to move was made by the Republic of Singapore Air Force,” said Capt. Andre Kok of Cannon’s public affairs. “We respect their decision and have enjoyed hosting the Singapore Air Force and Singaporean families.”
Those affected by the move include 25 U.S. Air Force personnel and four civilian personnel who had roles with the 12 Singaporean planes. Civilian personnel will be offered new positions at Cannon; military personnel will maintain positions at Cannon or be transferred to another base, Kok said.
Nine of the 12 aircraft departed for Singapore on June 2, according to a Cannon press release. The remaining aircraft will be transferred to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona in July.
The move will leave 60 F-16s at Cannon.
Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D.-N.M., and Pete Domenici, R.-N.M., announced in a joint press release Tuesday the decision to relocate the squadron centered around Singaporean budget issues and not on Cannon as a military installation. The lawmakers reported the breakup was not influenced by Cannon’s inclusion on the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure list for closure.
“Clearly, both Clovis and Republic of Singapore Air Force benefited from this arrangement, and we’re sorry to see the squadron go,” Bingaman said. “But this decision will have absolutely no impact on the BRAC process. I firmly believe that Cannon Air Force Base is one of the military’s finest assets, and we’ll be making that case to the BRAC Commission later this month.”
Clovis Committee of Fifty member Chad Lydick said the news of Singapore squadron leaving was expected and should have no impact on the BRAC process.
“We knew they were probably leaving even before we found out we were on the BRAC list,” Lydick said. “I’m not that concerned about it because what will save Cannon is the supersonic training, unencroached air space, and it’s ability to accept another mission.
“If Cannon survives, I have no doubt it will grow.”
Efforts to reach the RSAF were unsuccessful.
Military personnel changes at Cannon are fluid and routine, Kok said. However, the U.S. Air Force has made no major military personnel or activity changes since the release of the BRAC list, Kok said.
Bingaman and Domenici issued a warning to the Pentagon earlier this month strongly discouraging the transfer of personnel or military activities prior to the completion of BRAC Commission work. The paralysis is protected under Section 2909 of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act, the senators wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Singapore Air Force personnel first arrived in Clovis in 1998 as part of a cooperative training program between the U.S and Singaporean air forces. Throughout the program, Singapore has had troops in America learning helicopter skills, training on KC-135 tankers in Kansas and training on fighters at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix and at Cannon.