Curry, Roosevelt partner with Florida counties

They don't have much in common.

CAFB: Courtesy photo

Curry and Roosevelt counties recently became sister counties with two Florida counties in an attempt to share ideas concerning how to support their special operations Air Force bases. Okaloosa County, Fla., is home to Hurlbert Field, the military installation housing the only other U.S. special operations base.

Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties are located along the Gulf Coast in the Florida panhandle. They each harbor populations of more than 150,000. Tourism and trade are their main industries.

Roosevelt and Curry counties are located in the high desert, with combined population of less than 70,000. Education and agriculture are their mainstays.

The one thing that connects the counties is they are home to an Air Force Special Operations Command base — Hurlburt Field in Florida and Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, the only two in the nation.

Curry and Roosevelt counties recently signed a resolution to become sister counties with the two Florida counties in hopes of sharing advice and ideas for how to better serve their special operations personnel and how to solve problems related to the bases, according to local city and county officials.

"The goal is to develop cooperative relationships between the cities, counties and the Department of Defense and by doing that, it will further increase the DOD's mission effectiveness, while reducing operating costs by not duplicating costs," said Curry County Manager Lance Pyle. "By us working together, we can assist the transition of our military men and women from one base to another."

The idea to open communication lines between the New Mexico and Florida counties stemmed from Curry County Commissioner Caleb Chandler and Tony Hughes, a representative for the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Civic Leader Program based at Hurlburt Field.

Both men sit on the committee for the program.

"I just think it's important our local communities show their support for AFSOC and the Air Force," Hughes said. "If nothing is ever accomplished other than our local communities showing our support to AFSOC and the Air Force, that's still something important. But hopefully more will circulate from this, especially if our chambers of commerce pick up the ball with it as well."

Hughes said an example of a problem which needs solving at Hurlburt Field is traffic congestion. He said highway traffic can delay Air Force personnel from arriving at the base in a timely manner.

"The reason Tony and I had this idea is because we were talking about how Air Force special operations personnel transition back and forth between the two bases all the time," Chandler said. "We felt like there was a need for the counties and cities to do more than what we're doing."

Howell said Curry and Roosevelt County officials visited Hurlburt Field two years ago to look at the base while Florida officials came to Cannon.

He said he hopes to see that happen again with the sister county agreement.

"The point of a sister county is to develop ties between the counties then you'll see a lot more communications and exchanges," Howell said.

"I think we're going to be able to lean on them (Florida counties) for some Special Ops information and guidance in order to be able to better move forward with our Special Ops. services," said Portales City Councilor Keith Thomas, who sits on the Local Growth Management Committee with Pyle and Howell. "They've been there; they've done that. We'd be foolish to not use them as a resource to help us."

Cannon converted to a special operations base in 2006 after special operations became too large to be housed by one base.

Facts about local and Florida sister counties:

  • Okaloosa County, Fla.

Population: 180,822

Major industries: Trade, tourism and utilities

  • Santa Rosa County, Fla.

Population: 151,372

Major industries: Trade, tourism and utilities

  • Curry County

Population: 48,949

Major industries: Education, health and retail

  • Roosevelt County

Population: 20,050

Major industries: Education, health and agriculture

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