Community leaders tour Cannon

USAF photo: Senior Airman Evelyn Chavez Curry and Roosevelt counties’ civic leaders look at an AC-130H Spectre Gunship during a tour at Cannon Air Force Base. The event included a briefing from the wing commander, Col. Stephen Clark, a tour of key base buildings, lunch at the Pecos Trail dining facility, static aircraft displays, and a driving tour of the base.

By 2nd Lt. Stephanie Strine: 27th SOW Public Affairs

Twenty-four community leaders from Curry and Roosevelt counties gathered at The Landing Zone on a chilly morning May 4 for a Civic Leaders Tour of Cannon Air Force Base.

The event included a mission brief from Col. Stephen Clark, 27th Special Operations Wing commander, tours of key base buildings, lunch at the Pecos Trail dining facility, static aircraft displays, and a driving tour of the base.

According to Clark, the event sought to encourage a sense of community between Cannon and the surrounding towns.

“Our airmen are proud of what they do, proud of what their wing has become and what their base has become, and proud to be a part of your community,” he said to the group.

In the mission brief, Clark discussed Air Force Special Operations Command growth and expected total Cannon personnel, which he estimated to be around 5,800 by 2014. He also highlighted military construction projects to include the new Child Development Center, two new dormitories, the planned C-130 complex, the flight simulator building, and a recently-approved new medical clinic.

The group viewed an MQ-1B Predator Remotely Piloted Aircraft static display as Lt. Col. Chad Pit-og, 3rd Special Operations Squadron director of operations, described aircraft features and answered questions. Clark emphasized the importance of the RPA mission at Cannon throughout the tour, and Lt. Col. Bob Brock described the 3 SOS mission to tour guests.

The 3rd and 33rd Special Operations Squadrons provide precision weapons employment and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance using the MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper RPAs, respectively, to support overseas contingency operations.

While standing beside a Pilatus PC-12 light theater mobility aircraft display, Portales Mayor Sharon King said, “It’s been wonderful to be able to go behind the scenes” at Cannon.

“What impresses me are the personnel — nice, clean-cut men and women. It gives you a good feeling,” said David Sanders, Chairman of the Roosevelt County Commission. He also said the word “awesome” came to mind when he looked at an AC-130H Spectre Gunship on the flightline.

A driving tour of the base showcased renovations, new construction projects, recreation facilities and infrastructure plans to accommodate the increased base population. Included on the tour was the C-130 complex located on the south side of the base, which Clark said is a $300 million investment to include squadron operations, maintenance and support facilities for the C-130 squadrons. Construction will begin this fall, and the project is scheduled to be completed in May 2011.

Michael Poston, the 27th Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron deputy commander, described the 30,000 square foot “simulator city” under construction, which, when completed, will house MC-130W Combat Spear, CV-22 Osprey and other flight simulators. The goal of the project, he said, is to “have simulators for all our needs so our folks can train right here on base.”

At the end of the day, Clark said he hoped guests learned something they didn’t already know about Cannon Air Force Base and the airmen stationed here. He told the community leaders to keep in mind that 25 percent of 27 SOW personnel are directly involved in combat missions on any given day, and another 25 percent are preparing to deploy. Due to current demands on Cannon airmen, he asked the group to build relationships to “help us help them.”