By Tony Parra: PNT staff writer
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — The 428th Fighter Squadron, comprised of air force members from the Republic of Singapore and Cannon Air Force Base, was deactivated Wednesday after almost seven years of training at the air base.
The squadron was comprised of 140 Republic of Singapore Air Force members and 25 U.S. Airmen. The trained in air combat at Cannon since November 1998.
Brig. Gen. Ng Chee Khern, Republic of Singapore Air Force chief of staff, praised Cannon for providing an excellent training facility.
“The base has an excellent infrastructure (for training),” Khern said. “It’s a first-rate base. We were able to use the Melrose Bombing Range and we were grateful for that.”
1st Sgt. Koonchee Loke of the Singaporean Air Force said he wouldn’t mind bringing his son back to the place where his son was born. Loke said his wife had their first child on June 6 in Clovis.
“The thing that really got to me is the pride members of the United States Air Force have,” Loke said. “They (community members) recognize and support the base. The feeling it gave me was indescribable.”
Khern said 70 percent of the squadron members will be returning to stations in Singapore and 30 percent will go to Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix to continue air combat training. Khern said deactivating the squadron at CAFB was a cost-saving measure by the Singapore government.
Lt. Gen. Mark Schmidt, commander of the 12th Air Force, which is comprised of seven active-duty wings in the western and midwestern United States, said deactivation of the squadron has no correlation with Cannon being on the Base Realignment and Closure list. He said the United States is doing the same thing by consolidating bases to save money, just as the Singaporean government is doing with its forces. The timing was a coincidence.
Cannon was placed on the BRAC list May 13.
“It (CAFB) was a great place to be at working with the Americans,” Warrant Officer Mogan Govindasamy of the Singaporean Air Force said. “Today they are the ones on the frontlines. We are training and working next to the frontline fighters.”
Khern said he would like to return to Clovis if given the option. The squadron had 10 F-16 planes which will be transferred to Luke Air Force Base and Singapore. The 425th Fighter Squadron has been training at Luke Air Force Base since 1993.
The Republic of Singapore Air Force was established in 1968. The city-state of Singapore trains in other countries because of the small airspace in Singapore.