Commander: Special ops combat flying missions to begin in June

Courtesy photo The AC-130 aircraft is expected to arrive at Cannon Air Force Base next summer, according to 27th Special Operations Wing Commander Col. Tim Leahy. He said support staff for the aircraft will start arriving in the fall.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

The 318th Special Operations Squadron will begin flying combat missions out of Cannon Air Force Base in June, according to 27th Special Operations Wing Commander Tim Leahy.

The expansion at the air base’s main runway is nearly completed and more aircraft are expected Leahy said during Tuesday’s joint city/county luncheon at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

The quarterly luncheons are used to provide updates among area officials.

The 318th Special Operations Squadron uses single-engine PC-12 aircraft to transport special operations forces in sensitive areas. Leahy said the squadron currently has three aircraft at Cannon. Air Force officials said they expect 10 PC-12s to be stationed at Cannon.

Leahy, who took command of the base when it transitioned from a jet fighter squadron to special operations base in October, said a large portion of the 3rd Special Operations Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada is expected in the summer. The squadron uses MQ-1 predator unmanned aircraft.

He said personnel for the 16th Special Operations Squadron is expected to come in the fall. The AC-130 gunship aircraft associated with the squadron is expected at the base next summer.

He also said the base is working on getting a designated quiet zone on the base to keep trains from blowing their horns at the Curry Road R train intersection. He said the noise from the train is a major housing complaint.

He also said the base is working on a solution to deal with signal interference from passing vehicles on Curry Road R. The vehicles interfere with aircraft instruments during inclement weather, forcing some planes to land in Albuquerque.

In other updates provided by local officials:

• Clovis-Curry County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ernie Kos said 45 American Medical Alert employees are moving out of second floor of the chamber building Friday and into a new building at Hilltop Plaza. She said the vacated space will be used as a business incubator. She said the company is expecting to increase to 150 employees at its new location.

• Clovis Community College President John Neibling said several universities and colleges will have separate bond questions in this year’s general obligation bond election. CCC will have a $4 million bond question to fund the second phase of its Allied Health Care Center.
Phase one of construction will start in May, Neibling said.