PORTALES — As military installations such as Cannon Air Force Base receive new personnel from other installations, the Department of Defense is asking, “But what about the children?”
A transition to a new base can be difficult for school-aged children in military families, according to Jim Rickel, a quality of life regional liaison for the DoD, and the department is working on an educational compact to take care of state-to-state differences in schools.
Rickel was addressing the New Mexico Military Base Planning Committee on Thursday at Eastern New Mexico University.
The compact, which has been approved by eight states and is currently awaiting approval from Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, would help smooth out differences between schools that could make graduation and college entrance difficult for students who move due to military orders.
Rickel gave a hypothetical situation of a student involved in the New Mexico school system and taking New Mexico history as a graduation requirement. If that student’s family moves for an assignment in Illinois, that student is now hamstrung because they must take Illinois history instead. A compact, Rickel said, would allow for trade-offs in that situation.
“It’s just to focus on conflicts,” Rickel said. “It’s not to water down graduation requirements for any state.”
The DoD started working on the compact in 2006 with the Council of State Governments, and finished it in November of last year. The biggest reason the compact hasn’t been approved in New Mexico yet, Rickel said, was that a short legislative session didn’t allow for its introduction. Rickel said New Mexico has generally been supportive of the military in legislation (i.e. in-state tuition for children in military families) and figures it would be approved in 2009.
“I don’t see a lot of opposition,” Rickel said. “This is for the benefit of our military school-aged children.”
Commission Vice Chair Randy Harris said a compact would be welcome in eastern New Mexico.
“Those things have mainly been handled one-on-one,” Harris said. “It’s good to see a concentrated effort, not only statewide but nationally.”
Rickel said the measure would depend on state and federal funding, but that the structure required would be in the neighborhood of $1 per military school-age student.
Meetings watch: New Mexico Military Base Planning Committee
The New Mexico Military Base Planning Committee met Thursday at Eastern New Mexico University.
• Col. Steve Verhelst, the commander of the 150th Fighter Wing of the New Mexico Air National Guard, gave commission members a basic look at operations for the wing. He said the wing’s fleet of roughly 20 F-16s are each at about 4,750 hours of flying and average 240 hours per year. Based on a 6,000-hour scale, the planes can continue that schedule for the next five years.
• Col. Babette Lenfant, the mission support group commander for the 27th Special Operations Wing, gave numbers for what Cannon is expecting over the next few years.
More than 100 aircraft are scheduled to come over the next six to seven years, Lenfant said in her presentation. Aircraft mentioned included the MC-130W for low visibility missions, the MQ-1 Predator unmanned surveillance/intelligence aircraft (both in 2008), the AC-130 for close-range air support (2009) and the CV22 Osprey for refueling and resupply (2010).
Active duty military and civil service employee numbers are estimated at 2,200 for 2008, 3,200 in 2009, 3,400 in 2010, and 3,600 in 2013.
She expected privatized housing to surface in 2010.
• Hanson Scott, director of the Office of Military Base Planning and Support, said infrastructure for state bases is moving slowly but surely, and the Local Growth Management Organization created to address Cannon will serve as a model for other military areas in the state readying for potential military growth.