Cannon starts operations for CV-22 Osprey

Freedom New Mexico: Liliana Castillo Officials applaud as 5-year-old Quran Mighty, left, 4-year-old Kiara Morgan, middle, and 4-year-old Zoe Jones, right, officially break ground for the new Child Development Center Friday at Cannon Air Force Base.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Cannon Air Force Base started down two new roads Friday.

Base officials kicked off operations for the CV-22 Osprey at Cannon and broke ground for a new $8 million Child Development Center.

Money for the new center came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The center is desperately needed, according to Denise Van Derwarker, Airmen and Family Services flight chief.

“With the new mission and the growth that is coming with it, we need this,” she said.

Currently, there are 160 children on the waiting list for the center on base. Van Derwarker said the new center will increase their capacity from 130 to 326.

“Then we’ll have plenty of room to grow as needed,” she said.

The expected completion date for the facility is April 26.

The tilt-rotor Osprey, flown by the 20th Special Operations Squadron, is part of a commitment made by the Air Force to increase special operations abilities at Cannon, said Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, Air Force Special Operation commander.

“This is a historic day,” said Wurster, addressing a crowd of about 100 after flying the aircraft onto the flight line behind the podium. “The new sounds in the sky represent a new mission for Cannon.”

The aircraft flown into the ceremony by Wurster and Lt. Col. Matt Smith, 20th Special Operations Squadron commander, is the first to be stationed at Cannon.

Wurster said the 20th SOS is one of the most historical flying units in Air Force Special Operations Command history, having flown combat missions in WWII and now in Afghanistan and Iraq. The squadron also has a Congressional Medal of Honor history.

“Our joint teammates have come to depend on us,” Wurster said. “And we intend to grow into the squadron the world needs us to be.”

Smith said he is excited about a new chapter for his squadron and the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

Smith said the base will be home to four Ospreys this year and up to 15 by 2015. He said the high desert and mountain area of Curry County is a perfect training ground for the squadron, who are now in the “vertical assault business.”

“Today is exciting,” he said.

Smith said training will occur mainly at night and if they were to be seen, it would be by those that live in rural areas. He said one Osprey will allow forces to do what used to take two planes and two helicopters to do.

Clovis City Commissioner Len Vohs was one of several local officials present at the ceremony, including Mayor Gayla Brumfield.

“I attended today because I think this is a big deal,” Vohs said. “(The CV-22) is a good piece of equipment.”

He said the continued growth of the base is exciting for the community.

“The growth means more support along with added personnel and what the mission means to the Air Force is fantastic,” he said.

Roger Williams, director of human resources and administration with Bell Helicopters, makers of the Osprey, said the company closely monitors operation of the aircraft. Bell Helicopters is based in Amarillo.

“Having it stationed so close is convenient. It will be a source of considerable information,” he said.