Cannon letters cover wide emotional range

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

Messages sent to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission and posted on its Web site range from heartfelt and emotional to anecdotal and biting.

By and large, those writing in support of Cannon Air Force Base identify themselves in their messages.

The reasons they list for keeping Cannon vary widely. Some underscore points made by community leaders. Others try to introduce new information about the base and its capabilities. Still others make emotional pleas about how their lives will be affected by a closure.

Conversely, those not in support of Cannon tend not to identify themselves by name, but simply refer to themselves as military spouses or former airmen at the base. They tend to be more accusatory in nature, and speak negatively of the job market and shopping options in the Clovis area.

About 90 percent of the messages posted ask BRAC commissioners to remove Cannon from the closure list.

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Several messages express gratitude for the Commission’s decision to come to Clovis for a regional hearing scheduled Friday.

“I would ask that you come to us with an open mind, open eyes, and open heart,” writes one identified as Clovis resident Anna Lee Henry. “Let us show you our support, listen to our concerns, look at our great town and Cannon, and feel the damage that the announcement, much less a closure, has done to our communities.”

Writes another identified as Nikkie A. Rice: “ In summary, the community has reached out and supported the base like no other community over the last 50 years. We’ve done so financially, morally, spiritually and above all, consistently.” The writer goes on to list 11 reasons Cannon should not be on the closure list — many paralleling arguments made by community members over the past month — including abundant air space, no encroachment issues, good flying weather and the close proximity of Melrose Bombing Range.

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In a message called Keep Cannon Air Force Base, an unidentified Cannon supporter takes a unique approach to convincing the BRAC commissioners of Cannon’s value: “You want to take away the closest air base to Pantex (outside Amarillo)?” the supporter writes. “Where all the nukes are kept? Are you guys NUTS? You should be building MORE bases or expanding Cannon!!!”

The Pantex Plant site is America’s only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility, according to its Web site. Security for the facility is taken seriously; visitors to the Web site are notified they are being monitored by the federal government.

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Several people identifying themselves as military spouses wrote against the base. One said: “I haven’t been able to find a job that would cover the cost of daycare and gas and all the other expenses involved. And as far as health care, we do not have a hospital within a 90-mile radius that is able to accommodate all our medical needs.”

Another writes: “So, from a spouse’s point of view, please close this base so that we can go where good jobs with good pay are offered, a community that offers opportunities for young children as well as adults, and a place that we can have a choice of shopping that may offer better prices because of the competition without having to drive at least two hours.”

As a rebuttal to these and similar messages, one unidentified Cannon supporter writes: “Don’t let a bunch of disgruntled bored military wives influence what is best for our troops.”

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Another writer identified as Pat Oleary says the close proximity of the Melrose Bombing Range saves the Air Force money.

“At the cost of $1,200 per hour, I think that (five) minutes away would be more economical than aircraft having to fly (one) hour from (Albuquerque) to do maneuvers,” he wrote. “In the 27 years that I have been an aircraft analyst at Cannon I have not seen any delays in aircraft taking off due to runway congestion or any other air traffic control issues.”

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One writer seeks to offer new information to the Commission in his message:

“It seems that some areas that the Pentagon used in compiling the BRAC list are either in error or were left out completely,” says a writer identified as David Moon of Portales.

Included in these errors, the writer says Portales and Roosevelt County weren’t included in the estimated economic impact, the second “cross-wind” runway wasn’t considered in the ranking, the Pentagon misstated the distance to the Melrose Bombing Range, and the availability of supersonic airspace wasn’t included as a base asset.

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One writer identifying himself as Preston Runquist makes an emotional plea to the commissioners:

“My father secured a civil service job soon after his retirement and was planning on staying here for the rest of his working days. My mother has a job with the federal credit union and works very closely with airmen on a daily basis.”

He continues, “After years of moving, and countless old houses, and lost friends, my family and I were looking forward to being able to time our own moves in the future. But with the announcement of the BRAC list a month ago, that has been taken away from us.”