AFCEC helps Cannon AFB grow into new mission

  • Published
  • By Mark Kinkade
  • AFCEC Public Affairs
In 2005, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., narrowly avoided base closure. Now one of the largest military construction projects in the Department of Defense is transforming the former fighter base into a major special operations installation.

F-16 Fighting Falcons from Cannon's 27th Fighter Wing once filled the broad skies of eastern New Mexico. In 2007 the base was realigned under Air Force Special Operations Command and the fighter aircraft were reassigned. Cannon became home to nine different airframes and nine operations squadrons.

As the Cannon flight line filled and the base strained to support the increasing mission, the Air Force launched a $1.29 billion program in 2008 that will triple aircraft ramp space and double the square footage of facilities, said Lt. Col. Anthony Figiera, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

"This undertaking will ... accommodate our ever-expanding mission and the growing number of Air Commandos who provide precise, reliable and responsive specialized airpower to our joint partners every day," he said. "This elite Air Force installation, once on the brink of closure, is now crucial to the AFSOC mission."

 The project was originally designed to bed down the arrival of AC-130 Gunships at the base, said Tim Morrison, one of two Air Force Civil Engineer Center project managers overseeing the construction,

Currently, 23 construction projects worth about $336 million are underway at Cannon.

When the entire project is complete, Cannon will have added six new hangars, a child care center, a medical clinic, a dining facility, 336 dormitory rooms, 275 additional houses, and a host of aircraft maintenance facilities.

Much of the construction focuses on how to interface the new development into Cannon's current infrastructure and make upgrades to the base systems to accommodate the new mission, said Bill Threet, AFCEC program manager for the project

"It's one of our biggest challenges: build the infrastructure, including utilities. The base needs to accommodate more people, more facilities and more traffic," he said.

Upgrades include an increase in sewer capacity from 225,000 to 1.25 million gallons and new roads.

The heartbeat of this "new base" is a consolidated communications facility currently under construction. The facility will serve as a communications hub to integrate the special operations missions and remotely piloted aircraft activities at the installation.

The facility is on track to open in October, but getting there hasn't been easy, Threet said.
The proposed construction site had environmental and historical concerns that could have delayed construction or force the Air Force to find a new location for the facility if not addressed quickly and smartly.

"(AFCEC) helped the base work through the issues, and we worked with the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers to ensure the site was clean, reprogram and request additional funds needed to complete the project, and manage the project to the path of success," Threet said.

The Cannon project is large, complex and difficult, Morrison said.

It's 20 percent of all Air Force military construction and involves the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Clovis, N.M., community, elected officials and a host of other people and organizations to build what amounts to a modern Air Force base in the middle of the desert.

Both project managers said close collaboration with the installation and other partners is the key to success.

"This is an example of AFCEC's 'Battle Ready ... Built Right' approach," Morrison said.

"From environmental assessments and clean up, to designing the best facilities, to securing funds and reprogramming dollars so construction can continue, we're collaborating with our partners to finish this project."