Advocate touts Air Force’s strengths

Freedom New Mexico

Clovis businessman and long-time Cannon Air Force Base advocate Randy Harris joined a handful of civic leaders from around the country a little more than two weeks ago on a trip to deployed military locations and combat zones.

Sponsored by the Air Force Chief of Staff’s office, the Air Force Civic Leaders Group visited Afghanistan, Southwest Asia and other undisclosed locations during a 10-day trip. Harris talked with Freedom New Mexico recently about his experience and his resolve to act as an advocate for Cannon and incoming Air Force Special Operations Command troops.

Q: What did you come away from the trip with?
A: We had opportunities to visit with men and women who are actively serving day to day in combat and the jobs that they’re performing, and just to talk to them about conditions and what’s going on and to thank them for what they’re doing every day. My observations were that I would never want my son or daughter to go to war without the Air Force there. I would never want them on the ground without the Air Force in the skies watching over them, protecting them, rescuing them and delivering them home, providing them with supplies, ammunition, defending them and enabling them to do the best that they could possibly do on the ground.

Q: What are some of the things that our troops are doing?
A: They are dedicated and they are committed to doing good things, not just in defeating terrorists but there are things that they’re doing that a lot of times we don’t get to see or hear about. We’re giving people opportunities that they never would have had if we weren’t there. It’s just unbelievable the conditions (our troops) have to endure to provide a better way of life for somebody else.

Q: What are some of the challenges the troops face?
A: We have sent these young men and women into battle and they are doing heroes’ work every day and they’re doing it with old, old equipment that is broken down. Broken down not because they haven’t taken care of it, because they do an unbelievable job of fixing and repairing, but it’s broke down because it’s old and it’s worn out. At some point in time we’ve got to figure out a way to recapitalize all of that.

Q: How does this experience affect your advocacy of Cannon?
A: I’ve seen (Cannon airmen) in practice and training but I’ve never seen them (in combat). It makes it stronger and it gives me a better appreciation of the sacrifices and commitment that our airmen make every day. I guess that’s what really impressed me the most. For me to have seen it happen, to see what takes place, to understand, to actually see the capabilities the Air Force has, makes me a stronger advocate not only for Cannon Air Force Base, but the Air Force as a whole.

Q: You’ve mentioned aged equipment and needs airmen have in combat. What can you, as a civilian, do to change that?
A: I now have the opportunity to share directly with community, state and national officials that I personally went and saw men and women on the front lines, if you will, and the job that they’re doing.
I can provide a real picture and my interpretation to the congressional delegation and to leadership within the Pentagon and that helps influence. And I think that is the role that I will play and because I have built relationships and friendships in all of those arenas over the last 20 years, I will use the opportunity to share this information and this knowledge with as many people as I can.

Q: You’ve visited Fort Walton Beach, Fla. where AFSOC is based and there are many differences from Clovis. How do you address the issue of culture shock?
A: I think there’s culture shock, there’s no two ways about that.
But I think when they get here, they’re going to find their children are going to love the schools system, they’re going to find that when they leave here their kids aren’t going to want to go because they made great friends and had great experiences. They’re going to find that, yes, we don’t have all the shops and we don’t have all the retail, but we can pretty much do that within a 100-mile radius. And yes, I know it’s an inconvenience to drive to Lubbock or Amarillo but as this base grows and as this community grows, those things that they’re accustomed to at Fort Walton Beach will be here too – it’s just a matter of time.

Q: How does Clovis reconcile conservative values with what an incoming population may want or need? Do you think we need more bars, more nightlife?
A: We took a group of community leaders to Fort Walton Beach and they all made presentations in town hall meetings about what we’re about and just let people ask questions. That was a question that did come up, about nightlife. That has been an issue forever and ever in Clovis, New Mexico, and the nightlife will come as the population comes. I’ve been over in Germany and the whole town turns out downtown in the villages and they’re having a party and they’re drinking and they’re having a good time and I think, “Why can’t we do that in Clovis, New Mexico?” Well, the bottom line is you’ve got to have someone who wants to do it. It does not exist here today because the population is the size that it is and it has not desired it. But that may be changing.