New Mexico conducive to foreign visitors

by Grant McGee

The Cannon Air Force Base folks had a real good air show a few weeks ago. Thousands of folks from around our region came to see the planes and aerial displays.

Some jets were brought up from Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo — an F-117 Stealth and a German Tornado.
I chatted with two German Air Force guys who were with the Tornado, how they like living in the American Southwest, stuff like that. One expressed his affinity for really hot Mexican foods and jalapenos. He said his country trains people at Holloman for a number of reasons, particularly the great weather of southern New Mexico. The pilots get far more time in the air than in German skies.

People from different countries train and work in New Mexico: Pilots and staff from Singapore are posted to Cannon, pilots from Japan Air Lines train in flying 747s in Roswell, Germans are at Holloman and so on.

It seems New Mexicans know folks coming here from wherever are good for the economy.

I don’t think Arizonans feel the same way about visitors as New Mexicans do, this based on an incident that happened in the desert there 10 years ago.

It was during the Clinton years. Heavily conservative Arizona was abuzz about the possibility of nationalized health insurance and all those other things that political hand-wringers of the time were talking about. One hot political rumor of the time was the United Nations was being brought in to oversee something in our country.

Anyway, back to the Arizona desert, where a group of German airmen who were visiting Luke Air Force Base (west of Phoenix) were doing some survival training. They had finished and were gathered around their military vehicle along U.S. 60. Along came the mayor of Wickenburg, Ariz., driving home after doing business in Phoenix.

Wickenburg is about 60 miles northwest of Phoenix, a town about the size of Portales. It’s the first rural town in that direction outside the Phoenix suburbs.

His curiosity apparently aroused by the presence of military men out in the middle of nowhere, the mayor stopped to ask what the men were doing.

The mayor was reportedly stunned when the men, in accented English, spoke of being on a military mission and mentioned the United Nations.

Reportedly, once the mayor got home the alarm was sounded: The United Nations had landed in the United States and Wickenburg, for all its strategic importance, was the beachhead.

Newspaper articles were written, television and radio news stories were done. In spite of the truth revealed in the media reports, talk radio discussions were filled with questions like why’d the United Nations choose Arizona as the landing zone for an American invasion and so on.

When the topic came my way I’d remark how different things were in Arizona compared to New Mexico.

“They’re Germans doing desert training, that’s it. In New Mexico we’d welcome them because that means they’d be eating at our restaurants, shopping in our stores.”

Such musings fell on deaf ears.

I have positive thoughts for folks from other countries come to train in our wide open New Mexican skies.

And if I get to chat with them, with a wry smile I might ask, “Have you been to Arizona?”

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: