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

Cannon welcomes new leader

Col. Hammons returns after five-year absence.


June 3, 2017

Cannon Air Force Base bids farewell to one wing commander and greeted another Friday morning at the 27th Special Operations Wing change of command ceremony.

"I am absolutely honored to take command of this wing," said Col. Stewart A. Hammons, addressing a crowd of airmen and community leaders assembled in a hangar on base. "This is frankly the best wing in AFSOC (Air Force Special Operations Command) and the best wing in the U.S. Air Force."

Hammons' most recent assignment was as commander of the 1st Special Operations Group at Hurlburt Field in Florida. He was stationed at Cannon five years ago, but hadn't been back to the base until last week. He called the return a "homecoming" for him and his wife.

"We met here and married here," he said, "Today (Friday) is our anniversary as well."

As with many homecomings, Hammons' return was an occasion to appreciate the changes and progress of the intervening years. When Hammons left, Cannon was still transitioning into the Special Operations mission as designated in October 2007.

Outgoing Wing Commander Col. Ben Maitre oversaw the most recent years of that transition since assuming command in February 2015. For his next assignment he will work as a senior analyst at the Pentagon and be reunited with his family in Virginia, where his wife has been on assignment with the U.S. Coast Guard.

"It is amazing what (Maitre) and (his) predecessors have done in the five years I've been gone," Hammons said.

Before making his final salute Friday as the wing commander, Maitre spoke to his pride in Cannon's mission, its airmen and its surrounding community.

He remarked on New Mexico's special place in the country as a state with a large Special Operations presence (on three bases) and looked to the significance of the state flag's Zia symbol: not only a representation of "perfect friendship" and a "circle of life," but also as "a lens — a reticle, perhaps" for taking aim against "those who threaten our friendship and culture."

Leading Friday's ceremony was Lt. Gen. Marshall B. Webb, Air Force Special Operations commander in Hurlburt Field, Florida. Webb praised the "readiness, relevance and resiliency" of Cannon's command and mission under Maitre, citing the base's seamless operation through Winter Storm Goliath in December 2015, numerous Air Force awards and the "dedication and aplomb" of its airmen.


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