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Honorable Maier visits Cannon Air Force Base

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Merit Davey
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

The 27th Special Operations Wing hosted the Honorable Christopher Maier, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, here, April 2-3, 2024.

The visit enabled U.S. Air Force Col. Jeremy Bergin, 27 SOW commander, and wing leadership to showcase Cannon’s combat capabilities, unique readiness training opportunities, and quality of life initiatives that make The Steadfast Line the premier Air Force Special Operations Command power projection wing.   

“Cannon’s combat capabilities are exquisite because of the Airmen we have executing them,” said Bergin. “Our ability to pathfind new capabilities and procedures is directly tied to our readiness as a team – which is significantly affected by the quality of life we provide for our Airmen and their families. Advocacy and support from senior leaders like Honorable Maier are crucial to continue improving the quality of life here and ensuring Airmen are provided the support they deserve.”

The tour began in the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operations Center, where Maier learned how the 27 SOW is leveraging organic, bottom-up innovation to generate solutions to complex problems, like the Compact Loading Adapter and Winch System. The U.S. Special Operations Command-endorsed initiative, also known as CLAWS, enables the joint force to rapidly load munitions onto aircraft in contested or denied environments.

The group then flew to Melrose Air Force Range aboard an AC-130J Ghostrider assigned to the 16th Special Operations Squadron. Referred to as Cannon’s “crown jewel” by U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, AFSOC commander, MAFR boasts 70,000 acres of land dedicated to providing a readily accessible venue that meets almost all training requirements for members of The Steadfast Line, conventional joint forces, and visiting U.S. and foreign Special Operations Forces.

After returning to Cannon AFB, Maier toured the 27th Special Operations Medical Group to better understand the base’s unique medical challenges, how they impact readiness and how the 27 SOW and community leaders are addressing them to ensure Air Commandos and their families are taken care of.

“Access to specialty medical care is one of our biggest challenges here at Cannon, but we are engaged and working to remove barriers to care for our Airmen and their families,” Bergin said. “New programs like the circuit rider program, implemented telehealth options, and the additional contractors we were able to hire have worked to enable better access to specialty medical care, like developmental pediatrics and adolescent psychiatrists – but there is still work to do to improve our Exceptional Family Member Program acceptance rate and our readiness.”

Finally, Maier visited the Air Force’s first off-base dormitory lease, another unique quality of life solution the 27 SOW worked to put in place, providing Cannon’s youngest Airmen with the ability to live in an apartment-like building in town.

In February 2023, Cannon AFB’s dorms were occupied at 104% capacity, forcing arriving Airmen to be indefinitely doubled up in rooms, rather than the Air Force standard of single occupancy. This public-private lease bridged the gap for single Airmen housing availability, providing the 27 SOW 200 additional beds while relieving pressure on the multi-family housing market off-base, and increasing Airmen quality of life.

"We continue to make strides in quality of life initiatives like safe and affordable housing, medical care, and education,” Bergin said. “But there is always more to do, and we are committed to the cause – we recognize the improvements that need to be made to ensure this wing stays ready and lethal.”

Maier is responsible for all special operations, irregular warfare, counterterrorism and information operations policy issues and the oversight of special operations peculiar administrative matters.

“We are prioritizing people over hardware,” Maier said. “Our combat capabilities are not solely defined by the machinery we possess but by the Airmen who operate them. While cutting-edge technology and powerful equipment are essential, it is the well-being and resilience of our service members that truly determine our readiness and effectiveness.”

Maier’s visit provided 27 SOW leaders an opportunity to demonstrate the novel ways they are addressing The Steadfast Line’s unique challenges due to its remote location and discuss how the Department of Defense can best support its Air Commandos to remain ready 24/7, 365 days a year in support of the joint force.