Year in review: Cannon sees growth, new commander

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Cannon Air Force Base saw a year of continued growth in 2009, with the arrival of a new commander, new squadrons, new aircraft and extensive construction and renovation.

Personnel surpassed 4,000 and continues to grow.

Here are three highlights among many important events of the year:

Change of Command

Col. Stephen A. Clark took over command of the 27th Special Operations Wing from Col. Timothy Leahy in May.

Clark said plans wouldn’t change under his command, but the mission would grow to include more people, deployments and weapons.

During the change of command ceremony, Clark said he planned to continue to ensure Cannon airmen were well prepared for their mission.

“It is doing what no one else can do or will do but (what) needs doing nonetheless,” he said.

Clark asked airmen to take ownership of their base and units and to make them the best they could be.

“It is a rare and wonderful opportunity to build a wing from the ground up,” he said, adding he was glad to share in the effort.

Housing

With Cannon growing, housing has become a big issue and the topic of much discussion.

In October, Clark told the Military Base Planning Commission he expected his available military housing units to be full by March 2010.

He also said rentals in the community are sparse, too expensive for most of his personnel and in undesirable areas. On top of that, Clark said homes for sale were largely outside most Cannon Airmen’s price range.

Late in the year, Cannon joined with several other bases in beginning the process to seek civilian contractors to build and maintain housing for the base, according to a news release written by Airman 1st Class Jette Warnick of the wing’s Public Affairs office.

Local developers have reported various housing projects under way, and Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield told Clark in October the region would “jump through hoops” to fix the problems.

Melrose Bombing Range Expansion

Despite a tight state budget and frozen capital outlay money, New Mexico provided $5 million for the Melrose Bombing Range expansion.

Earlier, Gov. Bill Richardson announced a waiver from defense officials approving the state’s $5 million gift in capital outlay money to the Air Force for the expansion.

“It is good news,” said Hanson Scott, state Office of Military Base Planning and Support director. “This is another good step forward in the process to enhance Cannon’s military capacity.”

Local officials said the expansion would also benefit the community by bringing in jobs and revenue.

Personnel from Cannon and other bases use the 66,000-acre base for special operations training.

— Freedom New Mexico reporters Thomas Garcia, Lilianna Castillo and Sharna Johnson contributed to this report.