Civic leaders address concerns during Special Ops visit

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

panel of local civic leaders fielded questions about eastern New Mexico health care, real estate, schools and recreation Thursday at Hurlburt Field, Fla., home of the Air Force Special Operations Command, according to civic leaders.

The local community representatives addressed the concerns of about 600 AFSOC personnel during the Florida trip, which lasted through Friday afternoon.

“Their major concerns are the same as any family’s concerns,” said Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm, who went to Hurlburt Thursday. “They want to know about health care, schools. They want to know about opportunities for their spouses. They want to be sure that while they are out serving the nation, their families are going to be in a place where they are well cared for.”

The Air Force Special Operations 16th Wing is slated to assume ownership of Cannon Air Force Base in October 2007.

Seidenwurm said AFSOC personnel are stationed at installations longer than typical military personnel, mostly because there are few installations for training Air Force Special Operations forces in the nation.

“Their families set down deep roots. While military personnel are deployed all over the world, their families stay put. Their ties to their communities are in some ways deeper because they are there longer,” she said.

Some personnel already at Cannon will be incorporated into the 16th SOW at Cannon, and others will be assigned from Hurlburt, officials have said.
The specific number of Cannon and Hurlburt personnel to be part of the 16th SOW at Cannon is unknown, according to officials.

Clovis Mayor David Lansford said the Hurlburt visit set a good tone for the impending mission transfer.

He said civic leaders conveyed Clovis and Portales as communities supportive of the military.

“The folks out there, they heard all kind of rumors about the deserts of New Mexico,” Lansford said.

“They probably learned it’s not all one type of climate, one culture. It is a diverse place in New Mexico. … We tried to give them a good, objective, realistic view of New Mexico,” he said.

Civic leaders said AFSOC personnel invested in the Special Ops mission are excited about the opportunity to train in eastern New Mexico because it resembles Middle Eastern terrain more so than Florida.

The two-day trip also included a tour of Hurlburt and presentations on its operations, civic leaders said.