Cannon base commander nominated for promotion to brigadier general

Freedom New Mexico: Sharna Johnson Col. Stephen Clark, commander of Cannon Air Force Base, is up for promotion. He’s been nominated for his first star, boosting him from colonel to brigadier general if approved by the Senate

Sharna Johnson

Col. Stephen Clark sees his nomination for his first star as an opportunity to apply his experience in an area that he can help.

Clark was among a group of 41 Air Force officers whose nominations were announced Tuesday, according to an article in Air Force Times.

Among the group are former Cannon command staff Col. Thomas F. Gould and Col. Jeffrey R. McDaniels and Col. Margaret “Peggy” B. Poore, both now at the Pentagon.

The nomination, already approved by the White House, still must be confirmed by the Senate.

The promotion would elevate Clark to brigadier general, the first of four levels of general, the highest peace-time rank in the armed forces.

In his second year as commander of Cannon Air Force Base’s 27th Special Operations Wing, Clark said he is humbled and honored by the selection.

“I don’t think anybody just quite expects (a nomination),” he said Thursday during an interview at his office.

“It’s a great opportunity if we get confirmed … It’s about the opportunity it presents.”

Clark credited support personnel and the troops within a command as the biggest reason a commander succeeds.

And for every one officer nominated, Clark said there are easily four or five who are just as deserving that aren’t nominated.

Clark said numerous Cannon commanders have received a nomination for a star while running the wing.

“I think it’s the scope of the mission here,” he said, explaining that commanding Cannon involves multifaceted responsibilities lending themselves to promotion.

Clark, who took command of Cannon in May 2009, said he will be leaving Cannon sometime this summer with two years being the typical duration of a command tour.

Clark said his next assignment is, as of yet, unknown.

He will be replaced by Col. Albert “Buck” Elton, commander of the 1st Special Operations Group at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Seeing Cannon through the second phase of its transition to a new mission has been a positive experience, he said, and he is pleased with the way it has gone.

His predecessor’s primary role — as the first special operations commander after Cannon’s mission was changed from a fighter wing — was to lay out the “puzzle pieces.” His role was executing those plans.

While Clark estimated Col. Timothy Leahy’s objective was split in a 75 percent focus on getting the base set to move into the new mission and 25 percent in mission, he came in with a goal of executing Leahy’s plans and bringing that to a 50/50 level.

Under Clark’s command, troop size has grown at the base and deployment tempos have risen to normal levels for special operations personnel.

“We’re already ahead of schedule,” he said.

Clark said projected troop size at the base has increased seven times and has already reached 4,400 personnel with an expected 6,048 projected by 2016.

And he said, “given the history the probability is pretty good (it will change again).”

The community has been “very responsive to our base … very engaged; very supportive,” which he said has and continues to aid in the transition.

Clark said he knows that regardless of where his career takes him in the future, he will see Cannon again.

As a part of implementing a new mission, he said, “the exciting part for us is to come back at the 10-year anniversary and see how it’s grown.”

Cannon has been and will continue to be a “very significant installation,” he said, as a home to special operations.

And each special operations group is unique even among their own kind, possessing a different combination of skills and abilities.

Clark said Cannon has been a good experience for him and his family and one they will value for a long time to come.

He explained that while he doesn’t use the word “friends” lightly, “We’ve made some good friends here.”