Carson City Sheriff’s Office Aero Squadron celebrates 50th years
The Carson City Sheriff’s Office Aero Squadron celebrated its 50th anniversary Saturday with a banquet at the Governor’s Mansion.
The Aero Squadron is a group of community volunteers who donate their time, personal aircraft and piloting skills to assist the Sheriff’s Office with some tasks ranging from aerial search and rescue missions to extraditable prisoner transports.
The Squadron was started on April 13, 1966, by Sheriff Bob Humphrey, who also was Carson’s only flying Sheriff. He had four or five friends in town who would help him with flying missions already and they decided to make it an official organization under the department.
Nearly 100 people were present at the 50 years of service celebration to honor the men who had flown as part of the group.
“These guys are crazy,” Sheriff Ken Furlong said jokingly. “We are very proud of them, they are a great group of folks because they will do what no one else will do and it has always been this way.”
Since its founding the group has only had 83 members, with several of its members staying with the organization for 20 or 40 years. In the past 50 years, the group has dedicated 25,000 volunteer hours, flew 347 air missions and logged 759 flight hours. The organization currently has 18 active members and 12 aircrafts.
The guests enjoyed a cocktail reception, dinner and awards ceremony to honor the Aero Squadron members and their loved ones, members of the Sheriff’s Office and other community members.
The last living founding members, Ron Lott and Chuck Saulisberry, were present at the banquet and honored with a Lifetime Member Award.
“It has been years of good fun and good work,” Lott said.
Chuck’s wife Jo accepted his award for him as Chuck was in a rehabilitation center for a broken arm. Jo shared stories that the two had from Chuck’s time with the Squadron, from the social events to the missions.
“We always had a good time and a serious time because these guys were serious pilots,” Jo said.
One of the best things about the group was that they were all very close and friendship was important to them, said former commander Steve Lewis.
“We always kept our membership to 20 members maximum to ensure we accomplished our mission but we also kept our camaraderie,” Lewis said. “We are a close knit group.”
Various members of the group spoke at the banquet, sharing stories of their flights and missions. Former Sheriff Rod Banister talked about starting with the Squadron when he was 12 years old, following in his father’s footsteps.
Also honored at the banquet were Kathy Heath with the sheriff’s office, the late Peggy McKendrick with Search and Rescue and Chuck Saulisberry, another original member of the Aero Squadron. McKendrick’s husband JC accepted an award on behalf of his late wife for her 20-year service with helping the Aero Squadron and Search and Rescue.
“Peggy was always the first one to go to the airport and fly on a mission,” said Lewis. “She was always excited with a smile on her face.”
At the banquet, it was also announced that Gov. Brian Sandoval created a proclamation to make Feb. 20 as a day honoring the 50th anniversary of the Carson City Aero Squadron. Mayor Bob Crowell also gave a proclamation from the city to commend and thank the organization for its 50 years of service.
“I wanted to say thank you on behalf of a grateful community,” Crowell said. “The services of the Aero Squadron aren’t recognized until there’s an accident or incident and that’s what you have been doing for 50 years so we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”