Planning underway for UTANG 70th anniversary events

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jennifer Eaton
  • Utah Air National Guard JFHQ/PAO
The Utah Air National Guard turns 70-years old Nov. 18 and a planning team is working to honor the organization's legacy through a number of events, all culminating in a celebration gala scheduled for Nov. 4 at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. 

Col. Christine Burckle, Joint Force Headquarters Director of Staff, is leading the collaborative effort, designed to unite past and present Guardsmen, civic leaders, and key community partners.

"The Utah Air National Guard has a remarkable, honorable heritage, and our goal is to commemorate that rich history and the important relationships we've fostered during the past seven decades of service," said Burckle.

The planning committee expects the gala to draw hundreds of guests, both local, and out-of-state, who have enjoyed a connection to the organization at some point in their lives.

"It's going to be a great evening paying tribute to the contributions of our people and our rich history," said Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Ormond, Joint Force Headquarters Operations Superintendent.

While some recognition events are still being coordinated, the Utah Grizzlies hockey team paid tribute to the 70th anniversary during a recent military appreciation night that included game jerseys designed to look like flight suits. One featuring the base's namesake, Brig. Gen. Roland Wright, will soon be on display on base.

The Utah Air National Guard traces its lineage back to the end of WWII when President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed the activation of new postwar National Guard units. On November 18, 1946, the organization received official federal recognition at Salt Lake City Municipal Airport. Its 191st Fighter Squadron, a fighter-bomber unit, was equipped with F-51 D Mustangs (F for "fighter"), formerly P-51 (P for "pursuit"). During its early years, the unit earned prominence as one of the U.S. Air Force's most respected aerial gunnery competitors.

During the Korean Conflict, UTANG pilots deployed to Japan and South Korea where they flew more than 100 missions. One Utah pilot, Captain Cliff Jolley shot down seven Soviet-made MIG-15 aircraft, making him the first Air Guard "Ace" of the war. During the Vietnam War, Utah Air Guard crews flew 6,600 hours of support missions for American forces. During the Middle East Crisis in August of 1990, Utah Air Guard pilots were some of the first to volunteer to support Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In 1999, many members were deployed to Europe in Support of Operation Allied Force.

Since the attacks of 9/11, members of the Utah Air National Guard have been continually activated for worldwide duty in support of numerous operations. At home, the organization's professional Airmen stand ready to support the state during an earthquake, flood, civil disturbance or major disaster.

In 2014, the base was renamed in honor of retired Brig. Gen. Roland R. Wright, a combat pilot with a distinguished military career spanning more than three decades. Wright also holds the distinction of serving as the first Chief of Staff for Air (Utah) from 1969 to 1976. 

Individuals interested in learning more about upcoming 70th anniversary events can call (801) 245-2298.