Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Base officials: Life at Cannon getting better

link Courtesy photo: CAFB

Col. Tony Bauernfeind, 27th Special Operations Wing Commander for Cannon, said Clovis and Portales community members and Cannon officials are working side-by-side to improve quality of life for Cannon's airmen.

CNJ correspondent

Life at Cannon Air Force Base has room to improve but it’s getting better all the time, according to base officials. And there is evidence to support the claim.

On July 28, the Air Force Times ranked the eastern New Mexico Special Operations base as the 10th best Air Force base. Col. Tony Bauernfeind, 27th Special Operations wing commander at Cannon, said the publication factored in a wide spectrum of areas in their rankings, many having to do with economy and quality of life.

Cannon was ranked No. 10 out of 68 Air Force bases in the U.S.

Not everyone agrees. The ranking prompted numerous negative comments on Cannon’s own Facebook page and this one posted on Air Force Times website:

“Cannon is literally the worst Air Force base in the country,” LC Rogers wrote. “I have never heard anything good come out of that base.”

Bauernfeind told Air Force Times that “Cannon had become kind of a joke in the Air Force circles, especially under Air Combat Command. The base had become very rundown.”

Indeed, Cannon was not well looked upon before becoming a special operations base in 2007, according to Bauernfeind. He said the base was under-resourced in the late 1990s and early 2000s with base officials working in nearly 50-year-old buildings.

But that is all changing now, Bauernfeind said, with not only Cannon officials working toward improving the quality of life of their airmen but with local community members doing the same.

Bauernfeind said not only is special operations investing $1.3 billion of taxpayer money into base projects, such as new housing and new squadron and maintenance buildings, but they have also recently reopened the base movie theater and a Domino’s Pizza and plan to open a Starbucks on base sometime in the fall.

Bauernfeind said he believes there are three aspects that contributed to Cannon being ranked 10th.

• The relevance of CAFB’s mission:

“We are doing our mission throughout the globe 24/7. We’re taking the fight directly to the enemy,” Bauernfeind said. “When you’re doing your job every day, that’s a great sense of purpose versus training for the job that may never come to fruition.”

• The U.S. military has invested heavily into the base:

“We’re almost getting a brand new base out of all that money,” Bauernfeind said. “When you go to your wallet and start to think about $1.3 billion, that’s a lot of change that’s going on and we’re fighting for even more.”

• Cannon is fighting hard to improve the quality of life for the airmen and their families:

“It’s not just doing the ‘oh well, you volunteered to come into the military, so deal with what you’ve got,’” Bauernfeind said. “We’re trying to listen to them and take their inputs and provide those quality of life improvements so that in their off time, we’re supporting that (quality of life).”

Bauernfeind said the base has a Quality of Life Council with representatives from each on-base unit that meets to discuss changes and improvements.

Bauernfeind said Clovis and Portales officials also reach out to help.

“At these quality of life councils, folks that have been on base for a year will go, ‘gosh, it’d really be great if there was a local motocross. And we had the two local chamber directors representing the community at these meetings and they said, ‘you mean like the one at Ned Houk Park?’ and there’s one just on the other side of Portales, and they (airmen) were just like, ‘oh gosh, we didn’t know that,’” Bauernfeind said.

“It’s just learning about those great things,” he said. “One of the great things about small towns are the hidden gems. Some restaurants you drive up to and you’re not too sure about, then you go inside and it’s some of the best food you’ve ever had. It’s getting the word out on that.”

“The community has also been phenomenal in trying to improve things,” Bauernfeind added, saying that he wants Clovis and Portales community members to know that all their efforts concerning the base have been well received and appreciated.

He said there are still a few points of negativity concerning Cannon and its area, such as the low state ranking for area public schools.

“As a parent, when you get the orders to come to Cannon Air Force Base, if you have children, one of the first things you are going to look for is where you’re going to live and what school district you’re going to live in,” Bauernfeind said. “What we’re not going to do is go to the local school board and say, ‘hey, here’s our list of grievances; fix them.’ What we are going to do is partner with them and say, ‘hey, we’re with the DoD. Are there things we can do to bring more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to the local area?’”

Bauernfeind said the base is making efforts to partner with local school districts to help improve school conditions.

A first step in that effort is a training called Teachers Understanding Deployment Operations (TUDOS) being held on base next week for more than 90 local teachers, who will learn “what it means to be in the life of a military child when you’re constantly moving every three years and one of your parents up and disappears for six months.”

“Over the years, I’ve learned that when you sit there and point at each other on a problem, the problem never gets solved and people just get mad at each other, but if we can come together and tackle a problem together, I think we’ll solve it,” Bauernfeind said. “We’re looking for strong teammates to come on board and help us move the ball forward a little bit each and every time, whether it’s on base or in your community, in your church, in your school.”