A sigh of relief, as Cannon mission uncertainty ends


The longest stretch of never-ending uncertainty in the economic history of this eastern New Mexico area — from May 13, 2005, to June 20, 2006 — is finally over. That noise emanating from this region wasn’t the wind, just a combination of sighs of relief and thankful prayers at the news that Cannon Air Force Base survived the limbo of “enclave status” and will become an Air Force special operations air wing base.

And it was a hearty cheer of welcome to the Air Force men and women and their families, and others, who will become our friends and neighbors soon. Welcome to your next home and duty station. Our communities may be small to some of you, but our hearts and hands are here to serve you while you serve all of us.

Thanks go out to hundreds of people, many whose names aren’t known and several whom we know well as they’ve led the Operation Keep Cannon effort. Among those who deserve our thanks are the New Mexico congressional delegation led by U.S. Sens. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, Gov. Bill Richardson, and the community leaders of Clovis, Portales and the counties of Roosevelt and Curry. Please thank them when you get a moment.

The importance of leaders pushing in the same direction became evident early last year, in the darkest days of spring when many began fearing Cannon would end up on the Defense Department list to close. DoD did target Cannon for closure, but with the public’s continual support, our leaders kept up the pressure for the right reasons and were successful in overturning that recommendation.

A key reason: This region’s landscape is a superior training ground for the clandestine world of military special operations being waged across several desert landscapes. Plus this base and the nearby Melrose Bombing Range are ideally located in a state that already hosts several vital future military missions; they are situated within 200 miles of large military bases that house forces that could practice their skills here.

All of us look forward to learning more about the new mission’s details and economic and personal impacts in a few weeks and months. More specifics will be available at public meetings here starting July 1. The challenge of seeing that our housing, schools, roads and other vital community infrastructure assets are equal to the coming demands on them is exciting.

We look forward to hearing more on these and other topics in great detail before October 2007, when the new 16th Special Operations Wing flag is unfurled here for the first time on a permanent basis. That salute will be as special as the one offered to the outgoing 27th Fighter Wing as its flag is retired.