By Mladen Rudman: Freedom Newspapers
FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. — Sometimes you don’t wait for business to come to you.
Representatives of Coldwell Banker Colonial Real Estate of Clovis were at the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort here on Friday — and plan to be there today and Sunday — offering relocation and housing information to air commandos from Hurlburt Field.
The company’s visit is in response to the announcement in June that the Air Force Special Operations Command is moving the 6th Special Operations Wing to Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis and reactivating the 1st SOW at Hurlburt.
AFSOC officials have said both wings will have roughly equal warfighting capabilities, and the number of personnel still based at Hurlburt will be more or less the same.
Friday afternoon in the Ambassador room, the three-person Colonial team, led by Carolyn Sherman, the agency’s relocation director, had a lonely vigil. No local residents were on hand, but that didn’t surprise Sherman.
“I know the local Coldwell Banker office thought we were here early,” she said. “This is probably the first of several trips to town.”
She explained that Colonial wants to stay ahead of the transition and be ready for action when troops start arriving.
Sherman said the average price of a home in Clovis is $144,508, and a newly constructed, “very nice” 2,000-square-foot house might start somewhere in the neighborhood of $225,000.
She and her husband settled in the city of about 35,000 after he retired from the Air Force.
Clovis offers affordable housing, good schools, a good hospital and safety, Sherman said. In this city near the Texas border, people leave their cars unlocked and sleep with their windows open, she said.
And, she added, Clovis residents love the military.
Just as air commandos are preparing for life at Cannon, the community of Clovis has to prepare for air commandos.
Cannon is currently an F-16 base, with much of its flying done during daylight hours. Air Force special operators tend to train, and fight, when the sun sets.
“They’re night people. We understand that,” Sherman said, smiling. “They’re going to keep our cows awake.”
AFSOC’s decision to use Cannon means the base won’t shut down. A Special Operations wing would infuse tens of millions of dollars into eastern New Mexico’s economy.
AFSOC hasn’t announced which units would move to Clovis, but Combat Talons, gunships and possibly Combat Shadows are among the airframes on the way to Cannon. The 16th SOW is also establishing a squadron of newer warplanes, MC-130Ws.
AFSOC spokeswoman Maj. Erin Dick said the command plans to send a 10-man transition team to Cannon in the next several months, but that’s it at the moment.
AFSOC can’t start sending squadrons to Cannon until at least one substantial legal issue is handled.
“Nobody is going to go out there until the environmental impact statement is finished,” Dick said.
AFSOC hopes to have the final environmental impact statement in hand by October 2007.
Mladen Rudman is a staff writer for the Northwest Florida Daily News, which is a sister paper of the Clovis News Journal and Portales News-Tribune.