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Cannon recognized as top-notch stateside base

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Alex Pons Abascal)

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Alexxis Pons Abascal)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- After years of battling the negative perceptions that have plagued Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., the reality about the base of today is finally making its rounds within the Air Force community.

Tongues started wagging across the force when Cannon cracked Air Force Times' top 10 in a ranking of 68 stateside bases. Though reactions to the standing ran the emotional gamut from outrage to elation, the list provided a unique opportunity for us to separate fact from fiction and provide insight to why Cannon is becoming a great place to work and live.

Since becoming a member of the Air Force Special Operations Command family in 2006, the 27th Special Operations Wing is now a far cry from the stagnant, run-down installation high on the base realignment and closure list. In addition to rejuvenating its mission, the base itself was injected with new life.

Here at Cannon, our mission is to provide specialized airpower to our joint special operations teammates as we collectively take the fight to our nation's enemies. The sun does not set on the 27th SOW guidon, as we have Airmen continually supporting combat and contingency operations in every geographic combatant commander's theater of operations. Our nation's enemies are being taken off the battlefield as a result of our Air Commandos' efforts.

As an installation, we are growing, and growing rapidly. We have spent, programmed and planned more than $1.3 billion of military construction for Cannon. Improvements include new hangars, new squadron facilities, new dormitories, a new medical and dental clinic and renovations to our consolidated Club and Community Center, just to name a few. Additionally, we are about to take delivery of the first houses from a $435 million privatized housing program, which will be a huge boost for our Airmen and their families.

Many of these enhancements are the result of programs such as the Quality of Life Council and the commander's action line, which we put in place to identify shortfalls within the Cannon community and create viable solutions. Not only do we encourage Airmen to voice their concerns, we make sure they have the ear of my entire wing command team during meetings conducted regularly on base.

Since early 2014, we've revamped our monthly Quality of Life Council in order to show the importance of its effort. Our command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Paul Henderson, and I chair this meeting so we can hear directly from the team and immediately start working on resolving any issues.

For example, we have re-opened our base theater and show "near first-run" movies free of charge for the team. In just five months, we have had more than 6,700 of our Airmen and their families take advantage of this venue. We've also worked with Army and Air Force Exchange Service to get a Domino's Pizza on base and we are eagerly awaiting a Starbucks late this fall. Additionally, we are working to get a smoothie bar in the fitness center and a sit-down restaurant on base. It is due to the meetings and council input that we've made changes to these high-interest areas.

Motivated by a relevant mission, exponential expansion and tireless efforts to improve quality of life, our Air Commandos are performing with unprecedented precision, and we have the hardware to prove it.

In 2013 alone, our maintenance group was recognized as the best at the Secretary of Defense level and our Airmen picked up nine Air Force-level and an amazing 125 Air Force Special Operations Command-level awards for their excellence. This year is shaping up to be even better!

With the base running like a well-oiled machine, I am optimistic that information founded on truth and grounded in verifiable fact will help to dispel the negative connotations associated with Cannon.

In all concerns, there is some truth; however, there is also a lot of myth. Many have formed their opinions of Cannon based on preconceived notions, but no first-hand experience. We are an incredibly robust and operationally active base that is growing and working with our community partners every day to improve the surrounding environment for all members.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone with orders to Cannon is instead of listening to outdated perceptions and immediately dreading the assignment, come to your own conclusion about the area. At the end of the day, any assignment is what one makes of it and Cannon can be, and is for many, a great assignment.

We have a great mission and are making a huge impact on the battlefield; we are growing and thriving; and we are fighting hard to improve our collective quality of life. We look forward to strong teammates joining the team to make our mission, our base, our communities and our wing even better for the future.