Staff and wire reports
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force Special Operations Command wing that is moving to Cannon Air Force Base has been designated the 27th Special Operations Wing, maintaining the history of the 27th at the southern New Mexico base.
The Air Force Special Operations Command said the wing designation was chosen to honor the 27th’s long and distinguished history.
“I think the Air Force, as they looked into the designation of the wing, decided it was best to maintain the heritage of the wing,” said retired Brig. Gen. Hanson Scott, director of the Office of Military Base Planning and Support. “It’s been associated with New Mexico off and on since the 1940s. And so that’s why they kept the number 27.”
Cannon, threatened with closure in 2005 after its F-16 fighter squadrons under the 27th Fighter Wing were ordered elsewhere, was chosen in June 2006 for the Air Force’s 16th Special Operations Wing. The Special Operations Command will take over the base Oct. 1.
Although Air Force officials originally planned to designate the new wing as the 16th, they decided Tuesday to keep the 27th designation in New Mexico because of its long history with the state.
Since its inception in 1940, the 27th designation has been assigned to various wings that have played important roles in America’s wars. The 27th was part of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines in 1942, which involved hundreds of New Mexicans, and the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing moved to Cannon on Feb. 18, 1958.
The state’s five-member congressional delegation and Gov. Bill Richardson said they were pleased by the Air Force’s decision.
Eventually, the base near Clovis will be home to about 100 Special Operations Command manned and unmanned aircraft and between 4,400 and 5,600 Air Force personnel.
Cannon will be adding AC-130s, MC-130s and Predator aircraft to its lineup, the governor’s office said Wednesday.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., called the decision to keep the 27th designation appropriate, while Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said it was fitting to carry the name and tradition forward.
Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce, both R-N.M., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., also cited tradition. Wilson said the new wing will be proud to carry forward the 27th Fighter Wing’s legacy of service; Udall said the decision shows respect for those who have served at Cannon over the years; and Pearce said it means a great deal to maintain the history as Cannon moves forward.
Richardson also cited the 27th’s ties to New Mexico.
“We are proud to be able to carry on the good name and history of this distinguished unit,” he said.