Officials update committee on Cannon’s upcoming transition

By Gabriel Monte: Freedom Newspapers

Cannon Air Force Base’s transition from a fighter wing to a special operations wing will include a special tactics squadron comprised of about 100 people, according to retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Hanson Scott.

Scott, the director of the Office of Military Planning and Support, updated members of the New Mexico Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee Wednesday about Cannon’s transition. The meeting was held at the Clovis Civic Center and concludes today.

The squadron will consist of about 50 support and 50 operational personnel. Its job is to secure landing zones for aircraft in hostile territories, Scott said.

“They’re air traffic controllers and combat-capable guys that come jump in and control traffic and set up drop zones or landing zones for special ops aircraft,” he said. “They have all the combat skills, and they’re all air traffic controllers.”

The squadron will also consist of para-rescue airmen, which is a legacy of the combat-rescue Air Force.

Cannon’s transition became official last week with the signing of the Record of Decision, 14 months after the Pentagon announced the base would be getting a new mission. The Air Force Special Operations Command will take over Oct. 1, but new aircraft will not start coming to the base until 2008.

“They need to work on hangars (and) taxi wings to get Cannon ready for the new mission,” Scott said.

One of the changes that will happen at the base is the privatization of base housing. Scott said a private company will be given a contract in the fall to take over base housing. Cannon will be coupled with McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas in the contract.

Scott said he expects new aircraft to begin to arrive at Cannon in 2008 and end with the CV-22 by 2010.

Commission on Military Base Planning Vice Chairman Randy Harris warned committee members to expect the base population to drop to about 2,000 people during the transition, which would have an impact on enrollments at Clovis schools and gross receipt taxes.