Four decades after local members of the Civil Air Patrol performed one of their first volunteer operations by delivering mail to isolated servicemen in Wendover during World War II, the Air Patrol's Utah Wing dedicated its first permanent home near the Salt Lake International Airport Saturday morning.
"This morning we have reached a pinnacle. Getting our own home has almost seemed like it has been a mission impossible or seemed like it has been a dream impossible," Col. Virginia Smith, commander of the patrol's Rocky Mountain Region, said at the dedicatory service held in the new building's hangar. She is a former Utah Wing commander.The new three-plane hangar and 5,000-square-foot office at 640 N. 2360 West will house emergency search-and-rescue operations. Offices for U.S. Air Force liaison officers are also in the building. For the last 15 years the patrol has been based at Fort Douglas and currently operates eight offices throughout the state, said Col. E. Woodrow Walton, Utah Wing commander.
The $300,000 facility was funded from $40,000 appropriated by the Legislature. The remaining $260,000 will be paid off during the next five years from money generated by the patrol, a non-profit corporation, Walton said.
In recognition of Walton's service to the patrol the building will bear his name.
"For 46 years we have been without a home," Walton said during a speech. "A dream for all of us has come true."
Walton said the patrol should be proud of the service it offers. For example, the Utah Wing has flown 68 missions during the past three years and has saved 14 lives, he said.
During the dedicatory prayer, Rev. Kenyon P. Kalvesmaki, Fort Douglas chaplain, said patrol members' response to a plane crash was a response to a call to God for help. Saying the patrol members' planes were the "wings of heaven" he prayed that members would renew their zeal for the life-saving service.
"Oh God, someone is down. Send me. Rescue is on the way," Rev. Kalvesmaki said in dramatizing patrol members' resolve.
Phillip Ashbaker, director of the state Division of Aeronautical Operations, said the new building represents the culmination of three years of work, including convincing the Legislature to appropriate money and the actual construction during the past eight months. Ashbaker also commended patrol members for their volunteer rescue efforts.
"Those that you have found, I am sure that they owe you their lives," Ashbaker said.
Col. Howard Rice, regional Air Force liaison with the Civil Air Patrol, said Utah was one of the first states to help construct a building for the patrol.
"The people of Utah should feel very proud to have a state-supported building," he said.
The Civil Air Patrol was established on Dec. 1, 1941. It later became an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.