Preparing the troops: A comparative look at eastern New Mexico, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The similarity of the Melose Bombing Range’s terrain to that of Afghanistan and Iraq was mentioned as one reason the 16th Special Ops Wing was assigned to Cannon.

Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

When the congressional delegation announced last week Air Force Special Operations Command had selected Cannon Air Force Base as the home for expansion, one of the factors named for the choice was the similarity in terrain between eastern New Mexico and the Middle East, specifically Iraq and Afghanistan.

New Mexico is host to a diverse range of terrain from large mountain ranges in the Rocky Mountains to wide desert ranges and heavily wooded areas, according to Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Those characteristics are shared with Iraq and Afghanistan, countries similarly diverse, reported in Wikipedia.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, wide-open spaces and drastic degrees of temperatures exist — from cool, moist mountain climates to hot, flat desert plains.

Special forces troops are looking forward to utilizing the natural attributes of Clovis and New Mexico, according to Maj. Erin Dick of the AFSOC public affairs. Lack of encroachment, clear, sunny skies and a large bombing range are great boons to their training, she said.

The Melrose Bombing Range is a 66,000-acre training range located 25 miles west of Cannon.

“The range (Melrose) out there is fantastic. The range here is very busy and (we) have to share with our Department of Defense partners and neighbors. (Melrose) range will allow us more capability. The weather there is spectacular and will be very conducive to training,” she said.

Supporting the war on terror, currently centered in the Middle East is an obvious priority, Dick said.

“What’s so great about (Melrose) range is it does allow us to train in one location and get the realistic training our airmen need for the global war on terror,” she said.

Special Ops will begin the transition to the area immediately and will assume command of Cannon Oct. 1, 2007, officials said.

— Sharna Johnson,
CNJ staff writer

New Mexico

• Area:

Total: 121,357 square miles

Land: 121,365 square miles

Water: 234 square miles

Coastline: 0 miles

• Comparative: New Mexico is the fifth largest of the 50 states

• Climate: Generally mild, sunny, and dry. Temperatures and precipitation vary widely from night to day and from winter to summer.
Higher mountain areas have a much cooler and wetter climate than lower areas nearby.

• Precipitation: Overall average is 13 in per year. July and August are the wettest months.

• Temperatures:

Annual mean temperatures vary from about 60° F in the south to about 50° F in the north. The southern areas, however, have many days of summer temperatures in the lower 100°s F. Temperatures below 0° F can occur during the winter.

• Terrain: The landscape ranges from wide deserts to broken mesas to high, snow-capped peaks and heavily forested mountain wilderness.

• Elevation extremes:

Lowest point: Red Bluff Reservoir, 2,842 feet above sea level at the

Highest point: Wheeler Peak at 13,161 feet

Sources: 2000 United States Census and


• Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf

• Area:

Total: 168,754 square miles

Land: 166,858 square miles

Water: 1,896 square miles

Coastline: 36 miles

• Comparative: Slightly more than twice the size of Idaho

• Border countries: Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey

• Climate: Mostly desert; mild to cool winters with dry, hot, cloudless summers; northern mountainous regions along Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters.

• Temperatures:

Average ranges from higher than 120 degrees in July and August to below freezing in January.

• Precipitation: Majority of the rainfall occurs from December through April and is more abundant in the mountainous region and may reach 39 centimeters a year in some places.

• Terrain: Mostly broad plains; mountains along borders with Iran and Turkey

• Elevation extremes:

Lowest point: Persian Gulf, sea level

Highest point: unnamed peak; 11,847

Source: The World Fact Book


Location: Southern Asia, north and west of Pakistan, east of Iran

• Area:

Total: 250,001 square miles

Water: 0

• Comparative: slightly smaller than Texas

• Border countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan,

• Coastline: 0

• Climate: arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers

• Temperatures:

Summer temperatures as high as 120° F have been recorded in the
northern valleys and midwinter temperatures as low as 15° F

• Terrain: mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest

• Elevation extremes:

Lowest point: Amu Darya 846 feet above sea level

Highest point: Nowshak 24,557 feet

Source: The World Fact Book at