Final farewell

The Cannon Air Force Base Fire Department sprays an arc of water over the two jets that participated in the final flight of the 524th FIghter Sqaudron. The squadron will become inactive on Aug. 30.

By Tonya Fennell: Cannon Connections

With practiced ease, Maj. Jason Cockrum unfolded his lanky form from his F-16 Aug. 10 at Cannon Air Force Base.

As Cockrum descended onto the flightline, he was met with handshakes, applause and cheers from his fellow airmen, a quick kiss from his wife and a clinging embrace from his 18-month-old daughter, Olivia.

Cockrum, director of operations for the 524th Fighter Squadron, was met with the fanfare because it was the final flight for the 524th “Hounds of Heaven.”

The 524th will officially inactivate Aug. 30 as Cannon prepares to transition to Air Force Special Operations Command on Oct. 1.
“It was great….just a beautiful day in New Mexico,” Cockrum said after the flight.

The final mission included a low altitude flight over Angel Fire and bomb drop at the Melrose Bombing Range, Cockrum said.
Cockrum and his wingman for the final flight, Capt. Jason Bell, flew over head at exactly 5:24 p.m. before touching down on the flightline where they were greeted by hose sprays from the base’s fire department. As the water arced, a rainbow formed in the sky. According to Lt. Matthew Speed, the fire department’s involvement is a pilot tradition.

Bell, nicknamed “Slay,” said he enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the final flight of his squadron.
“The flight went great,” Bell said. “It was a good way to end.”

Bell said he has been proud to be a part of Hound history. “Our squadron has a pretty amazing history,” he said. “We have flown everything from the F-86 to the Viper.”

The captain said the squadron’s camaraderie and the people he has worked with in his three years at Cannon will always have a special place in his memory. “We took this squadron to the desert,” Bell said. “We went to war together.”

However, Bell is looking forward to his next assignment at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas where he will reunite with his wife and 5-month-old daughter.

As for Cannon’s next step, Cockrum is certain everything will turn out well.

“It is sad to see our squadron inactivate.” Cockrum said. The people of Clovis and Portales are so wonderful and so supportive. It (Cannon) was a great home, and it will be a great home for AFSOC.”