This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A curtain? No, Roland R. Wright got a parachute.

Wright was a fighter pilot. First he flew the "Mormon Mustang" for the Army Air Corps in World War II. Wright was also there when the Utah Air National Guard was created 68 years ago — on Nov. 18, 1946. Wright eventually became chief of staff in the Utah Air National Guard, reaching the rank of brigadier general.

So, to cover the new sign — christening the facility the Roland R. Wright Utah Air National Guard Base — officials used a parachute as a drape until it was time for the Tuesday morning unveiling.

Wright, 95, was standing in front of the sign as the parachute was removed. About 100 civilians and uniformed personnel counted to three and clapped at the unveiling.

The base sits east of Salt Lake City International Airport. The Utah Air National Guard has 1,400 airmen. It is the largest component in the 151st Air Refueling Wing, which flies huge cargo planes filled with fuel that fighters and bombers can connect to in mid-air.

Wright made his name over Europe in World War II. The P-51 mustang he flew became known as the "Mormon Mustang." Wright shot down three enemy aircraft during the war.

Wright joined the Utah Air National Guard and was called to duty in Korea. He continued in the Air National Guard until his retirement in 1976.

Dressed in a green flight jacket, Wright addressed the crowd from a chair inside a tent erected for the event. Wright joked he was in the "cockpit," then recounted the history of the Utah Air National Guard.

Wright concluded by saying that the Air National Guard is like a family. He also said doing something important brings fulfillment in life.

"The Air Guard has filled a real importance in that regard," Wright said.

Former U.S. Sen. Jake Garn, who sat a few chairs from Wright, was in the Utah Air National Guard from 1963 to 1979, and also retired with the rank of brigadier general.

Garn recalled that the Air National Guard seemed unsure about whether to accept him, given he had flown in the Navy and not the Air Force. Garn credited Wright with helping him get admitted into the Air National Guard.

"Gen. Wright was such an example to all of us and was a great leader," Garn said.

The Utah Air National Guard's current commander, Brig. Gen. David Fountain, sat next to Wright during the ceremony. He said the Air National Guard decided it was time to give its base a name, and personnel began looking through its past to find candidates.

Fountain said Wright became the overwhelming choice given his long history with the Air National Guard.

"It's been pretty interesting to have Gen. Wright come back and talk to me about the history of the organization," Fountain said.

Twitter: @natecarlisle

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