Cannon Crusaders take final flight

By Tonya Fennell: Freedom Newspapers

Like a well-choreographed dance, two F-16 jets soared side-by-side above Cannon Air Force Base Thursday afternoon.

While fighter jets are a common sight in Clovis, this display of aerial artistry marked the end of the 27th Fighter Wing’s 523rd Fighter Squadron, known as the Crusaders.

The squadron was the first to be deactivated as the base prepares for the Air Force Special Operations Command to assume command in October.

According to, the 523rd Fighter Squadron’s primary mission was to maintain a continuous ability to rapidly deploy and support unified commanders worldwide with day or night F-16 combat operations. The squadron’s history dates back to Feb. 1, 1940, when it was activated at Barksdale Field, La.

The final flight is an Air Force tradition, according to Cannon Public Affairs spokesperson Lt. George Tobias, as was the arc of water that streamed from a yellow fire truck across the jets.

Also on the flightline were dozens of past and present Crusaders who came to witness Cannon Air Force Base history.
As the airmen patiently waited for the two jets to land, the National Anthem sounded out across the base. In perfect unison, the camouflage-clad group’s heels snapped together and their hands raised in precise military salutes in honor of the American flag.

Moments later, the two F-16s came to a stop.

As Lt. Col. Brad Kearney emerged from the cockpit, he was met with cheers and champagne, which was presented to him by Col. Scott West, 27th Fighter Wing Commander. Kearney is the 523rd Operations Commander.

“It’s only fitting that he (Kearney) did the final flight,” Tobias said.

Kearney, a father of four, said he enjoyed being a part of the Air Force’s rich history.

“There has been 67 years of Crusader history,” he said. “It was fun and it was an honor.”