Year in review: New Cannon tenant deals in unconventional warfare

The 16th Special Ops Wing will perform night training operations. (Air Force photo)

By Marlena Hartz : CNJ staff writer

The mission of the 16th Special Ops Wing is unconventional warfare. The wing specializes in:

• Counterterrorism
• Combat search and rescue
• Personnel recovery
• Psychological operations
• Aviation assistance to developing nations
• Deep battlefield re-supply, interdiction, and close air support

Four major groups support the wing: Operations, maintenance, mission support, and medical. Each group is divided into squadrons charged with specific duties.

The 16th at Cannon
Specifics regarding the new mission cannot be nailed down until the completion of an environmental impact study of the mission’s impact on the surrounding area. The study is underway and a draft is expected for release in March, according to Air Force officials.

“Our intention is to be good neighbors,” said Col. J.D. Clem, deputy of planning and programs at AFSOC, during a September meeting about the new mission held at the Clovis Community College.

Clem said proposed aircraft for Cannon include several models of the AC-130 Gunship, with side-firing guns, and the MC-130, as well as CV-22 Ospreys, unmanned aerial vehicles, and small airlift aircraft.

Proposed operations for Cannon include practice of take-offs and landings, refueling, air drops, and night and low altitude flying, according to Clem. He said pararescuemen, combat controllers and special operations weathermen would also conduct ground training.

Melrose Bombing Range — 66,000 acres of training land situated about 25 miles from Cannon — would be used primarily for AC-130 gunfire practice, Clem said.
Personnel and assets associated with the 27th Wing will be dispersed incrementally beginning in 2007. At the same time, 16th SOW personnel and assets will begin to be transferred to Cannon, according to Air Force officials.

By 2010, somewhere between 5,000 to 5,500 people will be assigned at Cannon with the 16th SOW, according to preliminary figures released by the Air Force Special Operations Command.

By the numbers
4,000 — Approximate number of active-duty members and civilians currently stationed at Cannon, including nearly 300 officers and 3,200 enlisted airmen, according to figures provided by Cannon Air Force Base.

1,500 — Personnel associated with the 16th SOW that will be stationed at Cannon with the 16th SOW by fiscal year 2007, according to preliminary figures released by the Air Force Special Operations Command.

5,000 — Personnel associated with the 16th SOW that will be stationed at Cannon by fiscal year 2010, according to preliminary figures released by the Air Force Special Operations Command.

30 — Percent of the region’s economy is tied to Cannon Air Force Base, according to some estimates.

1987 — Year Congress mandated the creation of the U.S. Special Operations Command

1993 — Year Air Force Chief of Staff General Merill A. McPeak
redesignated the Air Force 1st Special Operations Wing as the 16th SOW.

2006 — Year 1st SOW flag returned to Hurlburt Field, Fla. The 16th SOW was redesignated the 1st SOW in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field on Nov. 16.

2007 — Year the 16th SOW will stand up at Cannon Air Force Base. The 16th SOW assumes ownership of Cannon in October 2007.

38,000 — Combat hours the 16th SOW had flown since the Global War on Terrorism began in Oct. 2001 as of March 2006.