Nearly two years after Staff Sergeant Aaron Butler was killed while battling Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, the Utah National Guard will dedicate a new training facility named in his honor on Friday, August 9.
The new $37-million-dollar, 140,000-square- foot readiness facility is located at the Camp Williams State Military Reservation south of Salt Lake City. Camp Williams serves as the headquarters for the 19th Special Forces group, to which SSG Butler belonged.
The Utah Training Center at Camp Williams consists of 24,000 acres of combat training areas that resemble the same environments encountered by soldiers currently serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The new facility will hold classrooms, large training and operations spaces, and offices, and will contribute to the overall mission of the 19th Special Forces Group.
According to their website, the unit’s mission is to “provide trained and ready forces to deploy, fight, and win wars under the full spectrum of unconventional warfare and to respond to homeland threats and disasters.”
The namesake of the new building, SSG Aaron Butler was killed in action on August 16, 2017 when he entered a booby-trapped building that exploded while his group was fighting the Islamic State in Afghanistan.
Following his death, San Juan County and the entire State of Utah honored Aaron and mourned his loss. His body returned home to Monticello on August 24, his 28th birthday, and he was buried with full military honors in the Monticello Cemetery.
SSG Butler’s mother, Laura Butler, said he “had a warrior’s heart” in an interview after his death. Indeed, Aaron was known for his enthusiasm, dedication, and fearlessness.
He is one of only a handful of wrestlers to claim a state championship in all four years of high school. He also served a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana.
It was that mission that opened his eyes to the oppression of corrupt governments over its citizens and eventually inspired him to become a Special Forces soldier.
As part of his military training, Aaron wrote why he wanted to be in the Special Forces. He wrote, “I realized…that not everyone enjoys the freedoms and opportunities we do in America.
“I’m convinced the Army Special Forces is uniquely equipped and trained to make the biggest difference in the struggle against oppressions I witnessed in Africa.
“I was now not only interested and duty bound,” Butler wrote, “but I gained a new-found passion towards being a part of liberating the oppressed. I made up my mind to do whatever it took to become a Special Forces guy.”
It is this spirit that the 19th Special Forces Group looks to foster. By attaching the name of SSG Aaron Butler to their new training facility, they will bring to mind that same attitude in all who are there and all who will come in the future.