Outgoing Cannon commander praised for ushering in new era

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, from left to right, Col. Timothy Leahy and Col. Stephen Clark take part in the change of command ceremony Wednesday held on Cannon Air Force Base.

By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico

Cannon Air Force Base has saluted its new commander.

Outgoing commander Col. Timothy J. Leahy formally handed the reins to new commander Col. Stephen A. Clark during a ceremony Wednesday morning at the base.

Leahy also received the Legion of Merit award for his work as commander of the 27th Special Operations Wing, beginning Oct. 1, 2007.

“During this period, the exemplary ability, diligence and devotion to duty of Col. Leahy were instrumental factors in the establishment of Air Force Special Operations Command’s newest wing and installation,” the citation read.

According to the citation, Leahy’s leadership was critical in the wing flying 60 percent of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Predator operations; the start of a new squadron of small and medium aircraft in six months; preparation of Cannon to receive 100 new aircraft; and construction and quality-of-life improvements on base.

Air Force Special Operations Command Commander Lt. Gen. Donald C. Wurster noted recent changes at Cannon and the arrival of new units and aircraft.

“We are here to stay with a mission of relevance in this world,” he said.

Wurster told Clark his top priorities would be his mission and his people.

In his speech, Leahy told the audience they were surrounded by American heroes who didn’t serve for money or recognition.

“They do it for God and country,” he said. “They do it to preserve our way of life. They do it for you.”

Leahy said he had been amazed at the tireless efforts of airmen and civilians on base. There is much work still to do, and the nation needs the air commandos’ special skills, he said later.

Also, Leahy said the surrounding communities have been supportive and hospitable.

“This mutual respect and close relationship is an integral part of the success of Cannon Air Force Base,” he said.

Leahy also thanked his family for its support.

“I could not have done it without you,” he said. “Even if I could have, I would not have wanted to.”

Clark said he plans to continue to ensure Cannon airmen are well prepared for their mission.

“It is doing what no one else can do or will do but (what) needs doing nonetheless,” he said.

Clark asked airmen to take ownership of their base and units and make them the best they could be.

“It is a rare and wonderful opportunity to build a wing from the ground up,” he said, adding that he is glad to share in the effort.

Also, Clark thanked his wife, Cynthia, for her wise advice and support for him and the wing. He told the Leahys they would always be the first family of the 27th Special Operations Wing.