Mission approved


Courtesy photo Air Force Special Operations Command plans to move the MC-130W to Cannon Air Force Base as part of the new mission.

Cannon Air Force Base’s transition to a special operations wing is official.

The plan to create a western-based special operations wing was cleared after Air Force Special Operation Command’s environmental impact statement was approved. The report looked at the effect of the operation on the environment, including impacts to air and water, noise and socio-economic impact.

AFSOC takes command of Cannon Oct. 1. Col. Tim Leahy, former vice commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., will be the first commander of the New Mexico Special Operations wing.

Col. J.D. Clem, director of plans and programs, said AFSOC airmen and planes will begin trickling into Cannon in November.

Clem said the first Hurlburt Air Force Base, Fla. unit to move to Cannon will be the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, which flies MC-130Ws. The colonel described the MC-130W as a “large and fairly complex” aircraft that requires seven flight crew members and a large number of maintenance personnel. “It is a four engine propellor transport aircraft that the Air Force has been flying since the 1960s,” Clem said.

According to Clem, the MC-130W is used for infiltration, exfiltration and refueling.

The earth-shaking roar of the F-16s will be replaced by the low rumbling of the MC-130W. “The MC-130W will do most of its flying at night, so unless people are out late in the day or at night they probably won’t see them (over Clovis),” Clem said, “and its sound is similar to a train.”

The second Air Force asset moving to Cannon will be the 3rd Special Operations Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Clem said the squadron, which operates the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft, will arrive at Cannon in June of 2008.

Support personnel assigned to the 27th Fighter Wing are expected to remain at Cannon under the new wing, Clem said. “There are approximately 2,500 personnel here (at Cannon) who help run this base,” Clem said, “and they will continue to do their function regardless of the aircraft brought in.”

Cannon spokesperson Staff Sgt. Richard Williams said though there was early discussion of helicopter units coming to Cannon, there are no current plans to include them in the incoming fleet.

Williams also said the new wing will not be called the 16th Special Operations Unit.

The Air Force is in the process of determining a designation for the new Cannon wing.


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