By Tonya Fennell: Freedom Newspapers
The sleeves of his stiffly starched camouflage uniform are adorned with two stripes. The navy blue double lines identify Coty Miller as an Airman first class in the U.S. Air Force.
Miller, 20, who enlisted in the Air Force shortly after graduating from high school in Florida two years ago, is an electrical and environmental specialist on F-16s. With more than 10 miles of wiring throughout the fighter jet, he stays busy ensuring the aircraft’s internal systems are maintained.
“I troubleshoot,” Miller said. “It’s my job to pinpoint problems on the aircraft.”
However, the F-16s he works on at Cannon Air Force Base will be scattered across the Southwest in the next two years after the base’s 27th Fighter Wing was ordered decommissioned as part of the 2005 base closing process.
In their place will be aircraft from 16th Special Operations Wing, a replacement mission Cannon was granted by the Pentagon in June.
Although Cannon and the 27th Fighter Wing are Miller’s first experience as an airman, he is not deterred by the upcoming changes.
“I’m sad it (27th Fighter Wing) is leaving,” he said, “but my career field qualifies me to work on any airframe and I wouldn’t mind becoming part of Special Ops.”
Miller is one of approximately 3,000 members of the 27th Fighter Wing.
Transferring duties is not an option for Capt. John Gallemore. The F-16 pilot must follow the jets he is trained to fly.
“For us (F16 pilots) the new mission means we will be leaving,” Gallemore said.
Gallemore, who has been stationed at Cannon for 14 months, is bothered by the thought of the 27th Fighter Wing being deactivated.
“I’m not happy,” Gallemore said, “but I’ll make due and fly somewhere.”
Tech Sgt. James Elmore has spent many hours compiling the base and the 27th Fighter Wing’s history. As one of only two base historians, Elmore’s career will change drastically once the 16th Special Operations Wing transitions to Cannon. The Portales resident, who has been based at Cannon for three years, said he now has two choices — train in a new career field or return to his previous career in life support.
“I would like to stay at Cannon if I could,” Elmore said, “but I’m not sure what I plan to do yet.”
Although they differ in rank and career, all three men agree on one thing — the military is all about uncertainty and they look forward to the challenges ahead.