Clear skies fitting welcome to Hurlburt folks

Freedom Newspapers

Nearly four dozen Florida visitors wind up a whirlwind two-day visit to Clovis and Portales today. We hope they spread the word that their future eastern New Mexico home has:

• Friendly people who live in cities and towns whose core values are anchored in their love of family, hard work, patriotism and service to country.

• A state committed to its military men and women and their bases.

• Humidity so low you can breathe despite the heat.

• Clear skies to train by and even a couple of days without wind.

• Expansive training opportunities sans encroachment and crowded base conditions.

Forty-six officers, enlisted men and spouses — many from the Air Force’s 16th Special Operations Wing, and led by Lt. Gen. Mike Wooley and his wife Kathy — formed the first delegation of visitors. If some didn’t know it, they also heard from Cannon and community supporters why this base won out after a thorough Air Force review that followed federal and congressional guidelines. Those factors include:

• Cost savings. Creating a special operations facility takes fewer military dollars here. Good flying weather (300 days a year) and airspace that’s being expanded bring smiles to the faces of pilots and crews. So do two rebuilt runways and ample airplane ramp space. Cannon offers large hangars, a new air control tower and many other good facilities. Existing on- and off-base military housing and affordable civilian housing will save money for the military and its families.

• Terrain. Training how you will work saves lives in wartime. Our landscape closely resembles where most American troops fight today in the Middle East. Training every day of the week at any hour is a rare commodity, too. No civilian encroachment issues mean aircraft can take off and land like they would fight.

• Melrose Bombing Range. More special operations-specific training can occur when airmen don’t run up against restricted range use because many different missions train there. Melrose also is being approved for all special operations weapons systems.

• Location. Cannon is located smack dab amidst several other regional military bases: Army forts Bliss and Hood in Texas and Carson in Colorado, and White Sands Missile Range and Kirtland and Holloman Air Force bases in New Mexico. Many of them soon will be home to thousands more troops. Training closer to home with the other services means joint special ops training and more realistic mission training can be done by our soon-to-be Air Force neighbors and their counterparts. It saves time and money, critical in this day of multiple battle fronts around the world.

All those are vital and serious issues. But we’d like to end on a lighter note for our Hurlburt friends. Coming to Cannon means better salsa and Mexican food. We hope you got a taste of it here, but if not, don’t worry.
We’ll save some for you when you get here, in October 2007 when the mission officially changes, or sooner if you are part of the transition team.