Cannon Air Force Base to celebrate its new mission - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Cannon Air Force Base to celebrate its new mission

A CV-22 Osprey in a hangar at Cannon AFB, N.M., during a hangar clearance test on Sept. 25, 2007. (USAF photo by Greg Allen) A CV-22 Osprey in a hangar at Cannon AFB, N.M., during a hangar clearance test on Sept. 25, 2007. (USAF photo by Greg Allen)

(AP) Cannon Air Force Base is celebrating a new lease on life -- and so are the towns nearby in eastern New Mexico and the Texas South Plains and Panhandle.

Those towns would have suffered when the base was threatened with extinction just two years ago.

A formal change of command and change of mission ceremony Monday will mark the start of Cannon's life as a special operations base. It'll also mean big changes outside the gates of the base near Clovis, New Mexico.

Two years ago, things looked much grimmer for Clovis, Portales and smaller communities around Cannon. The Pentagon in May 2005 recommended closing the base, which has been part of the community since 1942. Closure would have eliminated more than 2,700 jobs at the base and cost an additional 2,000 indirect jobs. One study predicted that closing Cannon would mean a $98 million loss to Curry County, New Mexico, alone.

In August 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission accepted the Pentagon's recommendation to send Cannon's fighter squadrons elsewhere. But it stopped short of closing it. Instead, the commission made Cannon an enclave, keeping it open in a much-reduced form while the Defense Department looked for another mission.

Last summer, the Pentagon announced the base would become the nation's second home to a special operations wing.

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