Home On The (Melrose) Range

Just a few months after the base transitioned to Air Force Special Operations Command, air commando officials at Cannon AFB, N.M. are preparing to ramp up training at one of the facility’s key assets—the nearby Melrose Bombing and Gunnery Range. One of the big reasons why AFSOC decided to open their western base of operations in the High Plains of eastern New Mexico is the sheer space the range has to offer—about 60,000 acres of Air Force property, 8,800 of which are dedicated impact areas for day or night gunnery and bombing practice. AFSOC expects by April to unleash its AC-130 gunships on the range as a regular patrons. During a tour of the range last week Lt. Col. Toby Corey, director of operations for the 27th Special Operations Support Squadron, said Cannon planned to open two dedicated gunship impact training areas this spring. The two areas—named “Spirit” and “Jockey” in honor of two gunships lost in the Gulf War and Operation Restore Hope, respectively—will be filled with about 26 targets. During his final flight before retiring, Lt. Gen. Michael Wooley, former AFSOC commander, helped demonstrate the “proof of concept” for the two areas by flying the AC-130 that shot the first live rounds. Since the air commandos will have priority use on the range space, Corey said that AFSOC plans to begin regular temporary duty training rotations with gunship crews, and will soon include training with special tactics airmen.