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Five & Thrive: Cannon AFB and community partner to improve quality of life

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kaylee Clark
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

Cannon Air Force Base and the local community are combining their efforts by creating subcommittees dedicated to the Air Force initiative Five & Thrive.

The Five & Thrive initiative focuses on safe and affordable housing, medical care, spouse employment, education and childcare.

David Robinson, Cannon Air Force Base’s Air and Space Force Civic Leader, leads the subcommittees dedicated to addressing quality of life issues. Each subcommittee is made up of approximately eight members who are led by a subject matter expert as the subcommittee chairman.

Robinson has been involved with Cannon Air Force Base for several years. As a member of the 2017-2019 Air Force Honorary Commander's program, he participated in the 66th Annual National Security Forum and was a member of the Air Force Special Operations Command Civic Leader Tour. He is a past Chair of the Clovis/Curry County Chamber's Committee of Fifty. Through these roles, he has worked closely with the past and present leadership of Cannon Air Force Base, learning about military operations and has an understanding of the quality of life issues Airmen face.

Robinson is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for Team Cannon and is working shoulder to shoulder with key community members and Cannon AFB leadership to ensure there is a focus on the Five & Thrive initiatives.

“Our job as a committee is to support Cannon Air Force Base, its Airmen and their families. By providing support in the areas of education, spousal license portability, childcare, medical availability, and affordable housing the community can ensure that Airmen and their families are not asked to sacrifice their quality of life,” said Robinson.

Rick Masters, 27th Special Operations Wing Director of Staff, who is working in sync with the subcommittees has been a part of Team Cannon for 15 years and can attest to the challenges and efforts that have been made.

“Right now, we have more of a concerted effort than in the past 15 years since AFSOC has been here. We now have the right people at the table identifying the right problems to act against and progress toward long-term solutions,” said Masters. “These issues will not get fixed by an Air Force only solution or a community only solution it must be a joint effort.”

The 27th Special Operations Wing leadership prioritizes the need for expanded healthcare services, improved educational options and greater housing opportunities for Airmen and their families.

“Taking care of our Air Commandos and their families is our top priority. We are working closely with our community partners to ensure we address these Five & Thrive initiatives that impact our daily lives here at Cannon Air Force Base,” said Col. Terence G. Taylor, 27th Special Operations Wing commander. “The subcommittees comprised of our community members are joining our efforts to tackle these long-term issues, and we would not be where we are today without them. While there is still more work to do, with the right people in place, we are headed in the right direction.”

To submit input to the Five & Thrive committee email them at FiveAndThriveCAFB@gmail.com.

Topics:

Safe and Affordable HousingMedical Care AvailabilitySpouse EmploymentEducationChildcare

 

 

Safe and Affordable Housing

Safe and affordable housing is a top priority for the subcommittee, and they now have a plan in place to work toward a solution.

“For years the focus was on how to get the cost of rent lowered,” said Masters. “We now have the understanding that the real issue is there is a supply mismatch for housing that accommodates single Airmen.”

The subcommittee dedicated to the availability of safe and affordable housing conducted a root cause analysis earlier this year to best understand the issue. Following the root cause analysis, a survey was conducted amongst 600 Airmen in the grades of E-1 through E-6 which took into consideration their status of dependents and their current or future living arrangements. The results of this survey showed that 85% of Airmen who live with roommates do so because it is the only affordable option. The lack of affordable, single person living accommodations is forcing single Airmen to pool their basic housing allowance together to rent a family size home thus creating a false market demand signal to home developers.

“Now the efforts are focused on meeting with the home developers to learn what barriers stand in the way and working with the local elected officials to understand if there is anything that can be done to help remove any barriers the developers have,” said Robinson.

Robinson explained that an apartment complex would best serve the majority of needs from the junior enlisted members once they move out of the dorms on base. The New Mexico legislative veteran affairs committee and Clovis Mayor Mike Morris have been in the conversation to help solve this issue in support of the subcommittee. ­­

Medical Care Availability

Cannon Air Force Base is focused on ensuring Airmen and their families have access to the medical care support they need.

Air Force wide there are approximately a dozen other rurally located installations who face similar medical care availability issue as CAFB.

“In rural environments you have rural medical support,” said Masters. “Typically, there are not large hospital centers in these areas. In these areas there are usually small-town family doctors, clinics and smaller hospitals that are minimally staffed.  This is the environment Cannon Air Force Base and other remote Air Force installations are in.”

The issues and concerns that many Airmen and their families have here are not unique to Cannon AFB or Clovis, New Mexico there are several communities with similar issues, Masters explained.

“We now have the right people paying attention and identifying the right problems to reach a solution,” said Robinson.

To help combat the availability issue, the medical care availability subcommittee is working to bring in doctors in the community who can meet the needs of Airmen. As of now there are specialty care options for local community members, but this may not serve the younger Airmen and their family’s needs.

The subcommittee has successfully brought in doctors specializing in physical therapy and orthopedic surgery to Plains Regional Medical Center and Roosevelt General Hospital in the last few years to address one of the most reoccurring medical referrals.

Alongside the committee, Cannon AFB leadership is looking to meet the specialty care needs on base by bringing rotating doctors to help alleviate the lack of specialized care outside of the gate.

“When it comes to medical availability this is one place where ‘what is good for Cannon AFB is good for the community’,” said Robinson.

The medical care availability subcommittee is also looking to leverage technology and prioritize Telehealth options. PRMC is partnering with facilities in Albuquerque to reach an agreement to offer telemedicine services here.

As of now, in order to have a telehealth appointment with a doctor in Texas one would need to be physically in Texas. This is an issue that is being addressed with state legislators to help create a resolution.

Doctor on Demand is an additional telemedicine option available for all TRICARE beneficiaries. These appointments offer patients a face-to-face virtual connection with a health provider. To learn more about Doctor on Demand visit https://doctorondemand.com/.

Spouse Employment

Oftentimes spouses of military members experience disruptions in their career due to moving to a new state during a permanent change of station. The State of New Mexico has worked to alleviate the stress of license portability when moving to a military base in the state.

  • In 2018, former New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez put in an executive order which directed the agencies to find ways to establish licensure reciprocity. This legislative action covered a widespan of professions.

 

  • In 2020, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed bill HB 30 Expedited Licensure for Military Families and veterans which speeds the process of obtaining occupational licenses for military dependents arriving in New Mexico, and virtually eliminates the cost.

 

  • In 2022, the New Mexico Supreme Court expanded to include the reciprocal agreement for out of state law licenses for military spouses who PCS between states.

Further assisting the success of spouse employment opportunities, the city of Clovis worked with the state of New Mexico and received funding to create a remote work center where one can rent a cubicle or space for remote work. This effort helps spouses who would have recently left or quit their previous career position at their last duty station by offering the solution of remote work.

Education

When moving to a new duty station, parents of school-age children will often research the school district they will register in. When parents search online for New Mexico, they will notice the schools rank in the lower five across the country.

One factor potentially impacting school ranking is funding. Due to the location and population of Clovis, supplemental funding is less abundant than more populated and resource-rich areas such as southeastern New Mexico.  The state of New Mexico uses a state equalization guarantee funding formula that, in theory, funds all districts in the state equally, based on a per-pupil formula.  However, certain districts have far greater local funding available, particularly if they are located in an area with a wealth of oil and gas resources.  The Clovis area has fewer local resources with which to fund education. Although funding is lower in this district it does not directly correlate to the school’s learning success.

The subcommittee dedicated to the education initiative is focused on ensuring the correct data is being assessed which impacts the schools’ rankings that are displayed online. These corrections are being made to ensure the assessments are including fair data that reflects the efforts that have been made. Once these corrections are made there will be a better reflection of the school’s success and more accurately inform parents who PCS to CAFB.

Dr. Ladona Clayton, an education subcommittee member and prior superintendent of Clovis Christian Schools is joined by Renee Russ superintendent of the Clovis Municipal School District and other experienced education administrators, representing PK-12 and higher education, Cannon AFB personnel, and local business and community leaders who have a sincere interest in and commitment to making our schools the best they can be.

“Families can be reassured their children will have multiple opportunities to engage in a meaningful and positive learning environment when they transition to CAFB,” said Russ.

Clovis Municipal Schools serves more than 7,500 students from Pre-K through twelfth grade.  Students receive a rich academic experience at one of eleven elementary schools including a fine-arts based magnet school, three middle schools, and Clovis High School, which also offers a freshman academy, an Early College High School option, and multiple graduation pathways preparing students for tradition post-secondary schooling as well as vocational-technical training. 

Rounding out the array of educational offerings in the district are a STEM and project-based K-12 program located at the iAcademy and comprehensive virtual only strand.  Additionally, bilingual and multicultural education strands are offered at all grade levels, allowing students to develop proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking of a second language with the potential to earn the prestigious Bilingual Seal upon graduating from high school.

“Having a subcommittee devoted to the education facet of the Five & Thrive initiative is invaluable as it brings a like-minded group of people together with a laser-focus approach to get to the root of the data driving the reported results, which can then lead to implementing effective strategies for needed change while staying the course on strategies that yield positive results,” said Clayton.

The Clovis Municipal School District serves the highest number of military-connected students of all public school districts in the CAFB attendance area. Barry Elementary School, Zia Elementary School, Mesa Elementary School and Gattis Middle School consistently outperform state and district testing averages.  Clovis High School also led the state in the 2020-2021 year for the highest gains in 4-year graduation rates.

“At Clovis Municipal Schools, strong instructional standards for teaching and learning, qualified professional staff and support personnel, and opportunities for student involvement in extracurricular activities and athletic programs all combine to assist each student in succeeding in reaching their full potential,” said Russ.

Additionally, Clovis Municipal Schools are renowned for their award-winning music programs that are rooted in comprehensive elementary offerings that culminate with a variety of secondary fine arts pathways to include theater, choir, and a number of band ensembles.  

Military families may face many challenges during a PCS which include the stress of registering their children in school. In 2021, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed N.M. Senate Bill 272 into law, allowing incoming military students to register in New Mexico school districts before they physically arrive in the state. The law enables military parents to enroll their children in school more than a month earlier than the previous state law allowed which relieves some stressors that come with a permanent change of station. 

To help alleviate stressors when moving to a new base the School Liaison Program assists with resolving issues related to military children’s education and provide information on school enrollment and school advisory councils.  Sara Williams the 27th Special Operations Wing School Liaison provides transitions assistance and information about schools and contacts other installation school liaisons for assistance in PCS to another base. 

“As a prior military spouse, educator, and mother of four I believe education is the foundation to our youth.  If there is just one thing I can support, sponsor, or promote to make the lives better for our military students, that affects all the students in the community, then that is what I will do,” Williams stated. “Our Five and Thrive Committee is just one more way for me to advocate for our military families and their students.”

Many of the individual campuses within Clovis Municipal Schools are currently engaged in the application process to receive designation as a military friendly, "Purple Star School".  This process is underway to further strengthen the relationship and partnership between the school district and military families. 

Childcare

While there is not a dedicated subcommittee to this Five & Thrive area, great strides have been made in terms of childcare availability for members stationed in New Mexico.

In 2019, the State of New Mexico created the universal pre-K program for both three- and four-year-old children to have access to full-day schooling. This program helps to create space in community day care facilities for children from the infant age to 3-years old.

The stress point for childcare is the base facility due to the lack of staffing and is currently being solved with multiple incentives. One of the ways they have been able to mitigate staffing is by increasing the pay for workers to $16.70/hour.

Alongside the pay incentive the Department of the Air Force instated an initiative to help alleviate childcare availability and increase spouse employment opportunities. Those who are hired at either of the childcare centers on base are now offered a deeper discount rate when enrolling their children at the facility. DAF Child Development Program direct-care employees will receive a 100% childcare fee waiver for their first child enrolled in installation Child Development Programs. All additional children of direct care staff will receive a 25% discount, calculated after the multi-child discount is applied. Finally, other Child and Youth Program employees are also now eligible for a 25% discount for each child enrolled in the installation Child Development Programs, such as receptionists, custodial staff and cooks.

To help alleviate childcare costs the State of New Mexico offers a Child Care Assistance Program to those who qualify. This program helps income-eligible families pay a portion of childcare costs while they work, search for work or attend school. For more information regarding the Child Care Assistance Program visit www.nmececd.org/child-care-assistance.