Year in review: Special Ops to rescue

The CV-22 Osprey is one of several types of aircraft expected to be assigned to Cannon Air Force Base. (Air Force photo)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

In early 2006, the fate of Cannon Air Force Base remained unwritten. Banners supporting the installation lingered in yards and storefronts. Residents of eastern New Mexico had just one thing to do — wait.

“In the beginning of the year, we were anticipating we would be selected for a new mission. That anticipation was pervasive for the first several months of the year,” Clovis Mayor David Lansford recalled.

Cannon had been recommended for closure by the Department of Defense in the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment round. But a federal commission spared the base from immediate closure and requested the Department of Defense find a new Cannon mission or shutter it by 2010.

“Without Cannon, I was wondering how we (Clovis) would continue to grow,” Clovis resident Mary Hall said.

Six months into 2006, eastern New Mexico was rescued from limbo.

Federal officials announced on June 20 Cannon would be home to the Air Force 16th Special Operations Wing. Cannon’s new tenants assume ownership of the base in October.

Preliminary Air Force figures indicate by 2010 the installation will have outgrown its current size by at least 1,000 personnel.

With the announcement of the new mission, cheer spread around the region.
“For some reason, I knew the base wouldn’t close,” said Blanca Rios, the owner of a Clovis floral shop who observed local business revive following the announcement.

“It’s tremendous. Most people were really happy… The base is probably going to bigger and better than ever,” Roosevelt County Commissioner Gene Creighton said.

Looking back on the road that led to the new mission, Randy Harris, a man who emerged as one of Cannon’s most loyal advocates, was awash in hometown pride.
To save Cannon, “The community pulled together like they never have before,” said Harris, a Clovis banker.

“It was very gratifying to see so many people work so hard,” he said.
“It’s kind of like when there is a disaster — a tornado or a hurricane. Our community showed the same kind of spirit that communities in disaster show. That’s why I live here. Because of the spirit of the people.