—Adam J. Hebert
September 28, 2006—Cannon AFB, N.M., became the best fit for Air Force Special Operations Command to establish a new Air Commando wing because the location addresses a long list of needs for AFSOC, said its commander Lt. Gen. Michael Wooley. First, Wooley said, Hurlburt was quickly running out of room as the command continues to grow in personnel and take on new equipment.
Cannon’s New Mexico location also addresses a host of geographic needs. AFSOC and US Special Operations Command had long sought a base west of the Mississippi, so that special operations forces based in the western United States would have more opportunities to train with the air element. Cannon’s “high desert” location, also near mountainous areas, provides additional opportunities for training in environments that can replicate Iraq and Afghanistan. Establishing a second wing also allows AFSOC to focus its airmen on “eastern” and “western” issues at the different bases, Wooley said in a Sept. 27 interview with Air Force Magazine at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in Washington, D.C.
But the crown jewel of the location, said Wooley, is not the base itself but its nearby Melrose Air Force Training Range, which will allow AFSOC easy range access for conducting assault landings and other “unrestricted” training operations that are not possible at Hurlburt.
Wooley said plans call for the two AFSOC wings to have essentially the same equipment and capabilities, although the exact composition of the forces that will move to Cannon has not yet been determined. The 16th Special Operations Wing will stand up at Cannon Nov. 16; that same day the wing at Hurlburt will be re-designated as the 1st SOW.
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