Commentary: Wing brings good fight in first full ORE

By Lt Col Mark Brown: 27th SOW Inspector General

If you were on Cannon Air Force Base during the recent Operational Readiness Exercise, you know the base had a different look and sound: a tent city popped up, followed by blaring sirens; security forces patrolled in full “battle rattle” and chemical defense gear as simulated explosions echoed down the flightline.

For the first time in its brief history, the 27th Special Operations Wing demonstrated its ability to pack up and deploy a lethal force package of firepower and combat support assets and operate in a simulated chemical-biological threat environment. The deployed force of more than 300 personnel responded to a variety of simulated enemy attacks from their encampments near the Portales Gate and at the south end of the main ramp during the April 10-15 ORE.

We’ve got more work ahead of us to fine-tune some areas, but, from my seat as the inspector general, the wing made a great showing its first time out. We practiced our usual deployment processes and combat missions with the added challenge of operating on our own as an independent expeditionary wing. We employed our own comprehensive combat service support forces in this fight — from field kitchen to firefighters, mortuary to munitions loaders — all while ducking for cover as “the bad guys” launched their rocket attacks, detonated their improvised explosive devices and maneuvered to penetrate our perimeter security. It was yet another sign that this new special operations wing is growing into a mature organization.

Cannon Air Force Base will rehearse these types of scenarios several more times before the Air Force Special Operations Command Inspector General team arrives in November to formally evaluate our overall combat mission readiness. Unfortunately, though, I won’t be here then to see this wing water the eyes of its inspectors; I’m passing the baton to a new inspector general next month.

As I prepare to depart, I’m amazed at how this base is transforming, and I’m very grateful for the many hard-working folks who are making it happen. I arrived here during the last few months of the 27th Fighter Wing as deputy commander of the mission support group. It was an absolute privilege and an unforgettable experience to partner with base civil engineers, contracting specialists, logisticians, special operations aviators, and many others, to map out a beddown for this new special operations wing.

I’m thankful to have stayed around long enough to witness several new squadrons activate, to watch unmanned aircraft flying around in our traffic pattern and to notice the Cannon “skyline” gradually change shape as huge military construction projects morph from mere spreadsheet line items to concrete realities.

And both before and throughout this extraordinary transformation, we’ve been cheered on by an incredibly supportive local community. To the many school, city, county, and state leaders who have enthusiastically partnered with the leaders of this base, I say a heartfelt “thanks.” You have been indispensable co-laborers with us, and I take away fond memories of school board meetings, Clovis Clean-Ups, Cannon Appreciation Days, Local Growth Management Committee meetings, and the many ceremonies and events in which you stood side-by-side with us.

Thank you for helping build the western home of America’s Air Commandos.