2006 Year in Review: Base lands mission

Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega, left, and Clovis Mayor David Lansford rejoice in the news Cannon Air Force Base was granted a new mission in June. The 16th Special Ops Wing is scheduled to take over the base in October.(CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

CNJ staff

After months of uncertainty, the fate of Cannon Air Force Base was revealed. Federal officials announced on June 20 Cannon would be home to the Air Force Special Operations 16th Wing.

The 16th SOW assumes ownership of Cannon in October.

“This is a historic, momentous occasion for New Mexico,” Gov. Bill Richardson said in a press conference announcing the new mission.

A special edition of the Clovis News Journal covering the long-awaited announcement hit streets that afternoon.

“This is a great fit for a mission in New Mexico,” Cannon advocate Randy Harris said during the conference.

New Mexico congressional delegates said the Melrose Bombing Range attached to Cannon and the region’s resemblance to hot zones in the Middle East attracted the Air Force Special Operations to Cannon. They also predicted the new mission would expand the number of Cannon personnel and aircraft.

The Department of Defense recommended the closure of Cannon in the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment round. A federal commission later spared the base from immediate closure, requesting the Department of Defense find a new mission for the base or shutter it by 2010.

“Probably, what hit us the most was that our identity with the military was going to change and that was hard to swallow,” Clovis Mayor David Lansford said after the announcement of the new mission.

Clovis residents and New Mexico congressional delegates lobbied for the base to stay open for more than a year, lining streets when members of the federal commission came to Clovis, and hanging banners for the base on homes, cars, and businesses.