Utah Air National Guard Base renamed to honor 95-year-old hometown hero

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jennifer Eaton
  • Utah Air National Guard JFHQ/PAO
The Utah Air National Guard base located on the east side of Salt Lake City International Airport was renamed Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base during a formal dedication ceremony here Nov. 18 in honor of retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Roland R. Wright, a combat pilot with a distinguished military career spanning more than three decades.

Army Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, Utah National Guard Adjutant General, and retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jake Garn, former astronaut and Senator, were keynote speakers during the ceremony and highlighted Wright's distinctive accomplishments and contributions to the legacy of the Utah Air National Guard.

"Brigadier General Roland Wright is a great patriot who has served this country with distinction during times of war and peace," said Burton. "As a fighter pilot during World War II, he represented the best America had to offer demonstrating great skill and valor in the face of danger."

Wright flew 200 combat hours in the P-51 Mustang during WWII, and was one of the first pilots to enlist in the 191st Fighter Squadron when the Utah Air National Guard was created.

Burton called Wright an aviation pioneer here in Utah and praised his decades of outstanding leadership in the Utah Air National Guard.

"To those of us in uniform, Roland Wright is truly a giant; and it's only fitting that this air base where he so faithfully served our state and our nation be named in his honor," said Burton.

More than 350 community guests and military members attended the event to recognize Wright who holds the distinction of serving as Utah's first Chief of Staff for Air from 1969 to 1976, and who was appointed to the Air Force Reserves Policy Committee in 1972.

A command pilot in multiple aircraft, Wright logged 7,800 flying hours during his military career, approximately 4,000 of which are in various types of fighter aircraft. As an Air Guardsman, he served as a fighter-aircraft flight lead, squadron operations officer, squadron commander, and group commander, to include flying a number of missions to Vietnam.

In his civilian career, Wright graduated from the University of Utah College of Law in 1958 and practiced law in Salt Lake City until 1991.

Upon initially learning that the base would be adorned with his moniker, the 95-year-old said he couldn't believe the news, and considers it one of the greatest honors of his lifetime.

"The thing I'm most proud of in my Air National Guard career is the fact that this military calling gives people something substantial and worthwhile to embrace," he said. "Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that incredible sense of purpose."

Wright was one of the featured speakers during the ceremony, and along with senior leaders, helped to unveil the new front gate signage.

The ceremony's November 18 date is significant, as it represents the day in 1946 when the Utah Air National Guard and its 191st Fighter Squadron were established.