Sky-high goodbye

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson The final flight for the 524th Fighter Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base is marked Friday by a “rainbow salute” from the base’s fire department.

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — As the clock reached 5:24 p.m. Friday, the last flights of the 524th Fighter Squadron flew overhead in a final hurrah at Cannon Air Force Base.

Two planes from the 524th, known as the “Hounds of Heaven,” touched down moments later to signal the end of an era for the squadron, and move Cannon one step closer to its

Oct. 1 transition to Air Force Special Operations Command.

The 524th Fighter Squadron is made up of about 180 airmen, including pilots and support staff, according to 2nd Lt. George Tobias of Cannon Public Affairs. It is one of two squadrons remaining at Cannon, along with the 522nd Fighter Squadron, and is scheduled to be inactivated Aug. 30.

Maj. Jason Cockrum, the squadron’s director of operations, said the final mission included a trip by Angel Fire and a bomb drop at the Melrose Bombing Range.

“Just a beautiful day through New Mexico,” Cockrum said after the flight.

Cockrum and Capt. Jason Bell touched down, and were greeted by hose sprays from the base’s fire department, allowing them to drive through a rainbow on a hot, sunny afternoon. The fire department’s involvement is a tradition at Cannon, Lt. Matthew Speed said.

Bell, nicknamed “Slay,” has been with the squadron for about three years, and said it would be tough to leave the base, and his friends and coworkers in the squadron.

“The flight went great. It was so good being able to … finish it,” said Bell. “It’s pretty amazing to look at all the squadron’s history.”

However, Bell is looking forward to the next step. He’s going to Sheppard Air Force Base adjacent to Wichita Falls, Texas, where he will be reunited with his wife and child.

As for Cannon’s next step, Cockrum is sure everything will work out fine.

“The people of Clovis and Portales are so wonderful and so supportive,” Cockrum said. “It was a great home, and it will be a great home for AFSOC.”