Mission status inching along

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ Staff Writer

As spring marches onward, so does the eight-step federal process established to find a mission for Cannon Air Force Base.

By mid-June, the Air Force hopes to have analyzed compatible, conflicting and overlapping proposed uses for Cannon. This is the seventh step in the process that will end with a recommendation for the future of Cannon to the Secretary of Defense.

“The Secretary of Defense remains committed to make a decision on Cannon AFB by Summer 2006,” Secretary of Air Force Public Affairs Shirley Curry wrote Wednesday in an e-mail to the Clovis News Journal. “We do not have a firm date for his decision at this time.”

Meanwhile, folks in Clovis are left to speculate about what mission may come. On the tip of a lot of tongues are two words: special operations.

“I have heard the same stuff at the coffee shop that everyone else is hearing. That is that some type of Air Force special operations, joint mission is coming to Cannon,” said George Krattiger, owner of a Clovis insurance company,

Cannon, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and Hurlburt Field, Fla., are three sites considered by the Air Force Special Operations Command for expansion, according to Curry.

Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is home to Air Force Special Operations Command and about 8,000 active-duty special operations personnel, according to base officials.

During the next five years, AFSOC expects to add up to 2,000 special-forces airmen, in addition to the 13,000 or so it already has, military officials say.

The highly trained, highly clandestine military branch was created by Congress in 1987, according to the Defense Department.

“In every conflict since the Revolutionary War, the United States has employed special operations tactics to exploit an enemy’s vulnerabilities,” reads a Defense Department document on special ops.

“More recent history has caused the United States to maintain specialized forces capable of performing extremely difficult, complex, and politically sensitive missions on short notice, in peace and war, anywhere in the world.”

Land, air and maritime special operations forces engage in civil affairs and psychological operations. Often, they operate in “small, discreet” units and in post-conflict situations, where they aim to sway future events in the favor of U.S. national interests, the document said.

Curry stresses that no decision has been made on the locale of an special ops expansion.

“Until a decision is made, any and all options and sites may still be considered,” Curry wrote.

And, for the most part, business owners do not report seeing an influx of military customers from Florida or elsewhere.

“Not yet,” said the Clovis Department of Motor Vehicles manager Julia Lopez.

The upbeat response is typical of those in the business community, many of whom saw business plunge after Cannon was threatened, but spared, from closure last year.

As a lone couple and a saleswoman converse in his family store, Ben McDaniel recalled a family from Florida who recently came into the flooring store. He said they were interested in building a home in Clovis and were pricing materials.

McDaniel said he “got the impression” that they were in the military. He said a few other business people have also seen a trickle of people from Florida in their stores.

“I think there is a lot of speculation (about what the Cannon mission will be),” McDaniel said. “But I don’t think anyone knows for sure right now in the community.

“People are definitely more optimistic about Cannon.”