By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers
F-111 jets posed to greet travelers coming in to Clovis and Portales recently got facelifts courtesy of visiting Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets.
“I never thought I’d be doing this, but I love it,” Cadet 4th Class David Mandel told Cannon Air Force Base officials.
Mandel is a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Fla. He was one of around three dozen volunteer cadets who assisted in the project, Cannon spokesman 2nd Lt. George Tobias said.
The cadets arrived at Cannon June 6 as part of Operation Air Force, and are involved in AFROTC programs designed to let cadets experience what active duty is like, Tobias said.
The jets, gifted to the communities in the late 1990s, were in need of a fresh coat of paint, said Clovis parks and recreation director Rob Carter.
The Clovis jet took one day for the group to paint.
The assistance of the cadets, who volunteered their time the first and last weeks of June, was greatly appreciated, Carter said.
“I’m glad they were able to do it. It really needed to be done, and we don’t always have the time to do it,” he said.
Though the planes belong to the cities of Clovis and Portales, the Air Force is better equipped and has access to the materials needed to paint them and reapply the appropriate decals. It is a chore that needs to be done approximately every five years, Carter said.
“It means a lot to people that flew the F-111 and were involved with those jets,” he said of the Clovis plane that stands on display at the corner of U.S. 60/84 and Seventh Street.
Portales city clerk Joan Martinez-Terry said the Portales community too is thankful for the effort put into refurbishing that city’s display jet located on U.S. 70 on the southern edge of the city.
“It’s something very important to us. We’re very proud that we have a symbol of our Air Force here in Portales,” she said. “We have a lot of people that work at Cannon that live in Portales (and) that’s one of the first sights people see (when they enter Portales from the south), and we’d like for it to be nice and a good representation of our Air Force.”
— Cannon Air Force Base Public Affairs contributed to this story