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Western Basing Requirement and the Decision to Accept Cannon


In the mid-1990s, Maj Gen James


L. Hobson, then AFSOC Commander, championed an initiative to establish a wing in the western CONUS. Program Change Request 94-05 or Commando Vision (informally) directed the com- mand to meet SOF requirements and global challenges by consolidating its forces, to include those stationed overseas, with the singular intent of providing SOF aviation assets to theater combatant commanders when needed. Commando Vision outlined a two


phased approach. The first involved the restructure of the active duty and reserve component mix in which the 919 SOW’s mission changed from flying AC-130As to MC-130Es and Ps. The second phase proposed the restructure of AFSOC forces in which it created a west coast SOW, to be based at Beale AFB, CA. While never formally stated, it remained an unwritten, as well as understood, por- tion of Phase II that once the west coast base became a reality the overseas units would relocate back to the CONUS. In their places AFSOC planned on institut- ing two forward operating locations. By 1995, Phase I of Commando


Simulator facility for MC-130 and CV-22 training.


Vision was well into implementation. Phase II, however had been placed on hold. Two reasons stood at the forefront to implementation of Phase II. First, US Ambassador to Japan, the Honorable Walter F. Mondale, opposed any force withdrawals from the Pacific, par- ticularly Japan, citing mission/theater needs. The second reason came from within AFSOC, which, when factoring in the changing commitment climate in Europe, that the temporary duty require- ments would present too much of a burden on crews and support personnel. Fast forward to late 2005, after the


BRAC announcement and at roughly that same time General Mosley reached the decision to move rescue back to ACC. The rescue relocation meant the transfer of Moody AFB back to ACC. General Wooley took that opportunity to suggest to the CSAF that AFSOC should not be a “one base command.” General Wooley’s argument against a “one base command” dealt with AFSOCs unplanned mission growth as it pertained to the Quadrennial Defense Review and Hurlburt Field’s limited expansion potential. General Mosley agreed, and proceeded to give AFSOC one week to develop a short list of bas- ing options. AFSOC identified Davis Monthan AFB, AZ and Cannon AFB, NM.


The BRAC recommendation to


close Cannon, DoD’s Global SOF Positioning initiative and the time limitations involved in moving a new mission into the base proved fortuitous for AFSOC. Cannon offered an almost perfect solution to AFSOC in terms of a training range (MRR), ramp space, and year round favorable weather. AFSOC finished its base comparisons in late 2005, and presented their find- ings in early January 2006. During the comparison process it became appar- ent to AFSOC leadership that Cannon and MRR were as close to exactly what the command required; Cannon offered 329 days of good flying weather; the ability to partner with the 58 SOW; only 30 minutes from mountains which provided excellent training scenarios; lastly, the varied terrain in the local area mimics that of areas where SOF avia- tion has been or could be employed and as such provides an outstanding train- ing area. The cost of establishing a new wing proved to be the most significant aspect of reaching a decision. Estimates placed Cannon at between $150 and $255 million, whereas Davis Monthan approached $1.43 billion. Without a doubt, Cannon’s greatest


allure generating the most excitement within the command was the train- ing range. Cannon provided access to 14,000 square miles of military oper- ating airspace, 350 square miles of restricted airspace, and 66,000 acres of range space (Melrose Air Force Range (AFR)). Moreover, Melrose supported most SOF munitions and obtaining 105mm and Hellfire munitions approv- als were mere formalities. All factors considered, Cannon AFB stood as the command’s obvious choice for western basing. On 1 October 2007, AFSOC activated its newest wing; the 27 SOW at Cannon AFB, NM, the Western Home of America’s Air Commandos.


The Build - Military Construction and Infrastructure


In 2007, The Air Force Special


Operations Command assumed own- ership of Cannon AFB and Melrose AFR and launched a massive $500M


20 │ AIR COMMANDO JOURNAL │ Fall 2011 www.aircommando.org


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