The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

History repeats itself at Cannon


USAF photo: Greg Allen Rick Shea, 27th Special Operations Wing and base historian, displays a 1965 article copied from the Air Force Times about the changes the base was undergoing during its transition from the F-100 to the F-111.

If the Cannon Web site were to publish an article about Cannon’s long-range improvement plans that included improving not only operational, but personnel facilities, you might think the writer was telling the base’s story today.

If that same writer began to expound upon the personnel growth to 5,500 airmen, you would be confident that the writer was writing about Cannon today. And lastly, when that writer claimed that the men and women of the spent a lot of time at remote locations, you would now be convinced that you were reading the 2009 edition of Cannon Air Force Base and the 27th Special Operations Wing, right?

Wrong! Those figures and statements came from an Aug. 4, 1965, issue of the Air Force Times article titled, “The Living Is Good at Cannon". Forty-four years removed from that Times article, the today’s activities astoundingly similar. Back then operational improvements included replacing and/or reworking most of the World War II buildings, um, let’s see — we’re replacing/reworking many of the buildings left from the fighter wing years.

In 1965, the Times stated that modern dormitories had “gone up” with more “in the works,” remindful of today’s state-of-the-art 96-person dormitories that are on the horizon. Moving off the BRAC list and back to an operational status, the base population has grown from 1,900 personnel late last year to an expected high of 5,500, nearly duplicating the personnel numbers during the transition from the F-100 to the F-111 days.

Housing was as much an issue in 1965 as it is today. Construction on base was everywhere, much as it is today. In 1965, Cannon families awaited completion of an additional 250 base homes, as well as another 150 units scheduled for Fiscal Year 1966. The aforementioned construction was in addition to the 362 “excellently appointed” homes, according to the article, in the main housing area — today’s Joe Cannon Estates. Today, Cannon families anticipate housing privatization and the renovation of homes in the Chavez Manor area.

Then, as now, the base was a beehive of activity. Two operational wings — the 27th and 474th Tactical Fighter Wings — watched over by their parent Air Division, the 832nd. Scheduled rotations of the wing’s three flying squadrons — the 522, 523 & 524 Tactical Fighter Squadrons and their F-100 aircraft — were commonplace as they filed their flight plans for South Vietnam. Today’s Air Commandos are doing the same, but with even more destinations.

For skeptics who claim Cannon offers nothing on base consider that even with 5,500 personnel, the base had only a 10-lane bowling alley compared to the 16-lane facility today. Llano bowlers of old recalled the days when two shifts a night were necessary to accommodate league bowlers.

For duffers and golf enthusiasts, consider that, with a population of 5,500 people, tee times were at a premium with just a nine-hole course. Compare that to today’s beautiful 18-hole course in the heart of the base!

To quote that Air Force Times staff writer “several years ago this Tactical Air Command (sic) location was far down the list of USAF “good duty” sites. But times have changed.” My, oh my, — history truly does repeat itself!


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