Airmen serving community well

By Col. Stephen Clark, guest columnist

A few weeks ago I was asked to be the keynote speaker at a Joint Land Use Study housing forum.

While my comments were geared toward our much-talked-about housing issues, my focus was on a much more important point and that is community.

Specifically, your airmen and their families are becoming as much a part of this community as everyone else.

There is not, and should not be, a distinction between your airmen and any other neighbor, excepting that one or both of the parents may be deployed into a combat zone for many months out of the year.

We are all neighbors working together to make our community the best one possible.

Consider this … your airmen and their families, all 12,000, soon to be 18,000 of them, are active in:

Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, New Mexico Food Bank, Lighthouse Mission, Jacob’s Garden, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Matt 25 Hope Center, March of Dimes, Portales Children’s Home, Make-a-Wish Foundation, Humane Society, Baxter Living Center, Read 180 Program;

Barry, Ranchvale, Clovis Christian, Mesa, Marshall, Yucca, and Clovis high schools, various churches, Knights of Columbus, Civil Air Patrol, Adopt a Highway, Boy and Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Elks Lodge, Eagles Lodge;

Coaching softball, soccer, football, basketball, cheerleading, volleyball, creation of a Farm League for kids 8 and under, Veterans Day memorial functions, Fourth of July events, Special Olympics, Equestrian Special Olympics, the Hartley run, Multiple Sclerosis walk, Curry County Fair, Clovis Kids Carnival, Relay for Life, Race for the Cure, and Clovis Trek for Trash (10 percent of our active-duty population on average).

About 1,700 of our children are enrolled in local schools. By 2014, that is projected to increase to about 2,700, including the children of our government civilians and permanent contractors.

We have formal memorandums of agreement with Plains Regional Medical Center, Clovis and Portales Police Departments, Clovis Anti-Terrorism/Hostage Rescue; we offer fire protection for seven surrounding communities and Explosive Ordnance Disposal support to communities in Texas and New Mexico.

We have key collaborations with Eastern New Mexico University, Clovis Community College, the Regional Growth Planning Office, New Mexico Environment Department, Child and Youth services, local VFW posts, Clovis Chamber of Commerce, Clovis city planners, Clovis and Portales city commissions, county commissioners and mayors.

It is said the base comprises almost one-third of the local economy. Our economic impact can be extrapolated from the following facts:

Our annual operations budget is over $200 million, our average annual payroll is approximately $200 million, and military construction from fiscal year 2008-09 was $173 million, and is programmed to be $758 million from FY 2010-15. There is a plan for approximately another $500 million after that.

If we are not now part of you and this community, then the entire effort to get Cannon off of the Base Realignment and Closure list was for naught.

This is a human endeavor and we are all working together to solve community issues, not simply base issues.

The community support has been exceptional, and I wanted you to know that your airmen are doing their part.

On behalf of all of your airmen and their families, we are proud to be part of this community and proud to serve this great nation.