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Happy Hooligans mentor visitors from Ghana

North Dakota Air National Guard pilot Maj. Steven Larson, right, explains aspects of U.S. Air Force pilot training June 21, with visiting Ghanaian Air Force pilots Flying Officer Peter Attah-Obeng, left, and Flight Lieutenant Felix Kattah at the Fargo, N.D. Air National Guard flying wing.  The pilots are interacting as part of the state partnership program between the North Dakota National Guard and the African country of Ghana.

North Dakota Air National Guard pilot Maj. Steven Larson, right, explains aspects of U.S. Air Force pilot training June 21, with visiting Ghanaian Air Force pilots Flying Officer Peter Attah-Obeng, left, and Flight Lieutenant Felix Kattah at the Fargo, N.D. Air National Guard flying wing. The pilots are interacting as part of the state partnership program between the North Dakota National Guard and the African country of Ghana.

Fargo, N.D. -- What does the 119th Wing and the Ghanaian Air Force have in common? Transformation.

In 2007 when the last F-16 departed from the119th Wing, effectively ending a 60-year fighter mission, the Happy Hooligans witnessed insurmountable change as they began their new missions of flying the C-21A Lear Jet and the MQ-1 Predator. The success of the Happy Hooligan's mission conversions has not gone unnoticed throughout the nation and now, the world.

Today two pilots from the Ghanaian Air Force, Lt. Felix Kattah and Flying Officer Peter Attah-Obeng will arrive at the 119th Wing for a weeklong visit of mentoring focused on the unit's recent C-21 mission conversion. The intent of their visit is to gain insight of how to successfully convert to a new flying mission, while maintaining mission readiness.

"Ghana's Air Force received four Chinese-Pakistani K8 Fighters and now they are securing with (aircraft manufacturers) Casas and Embraers to replace their aging Fokker fleet," Maj. Gregory McDonald, North Dakota National Guard state partnership coordinator said.

"They are looking at developing a pilot transition program, but have little experience in how to accomplish this. They would like to visit with the Happy Hooligans because of their experience in developing and managing such a program."

The Happy Hooligans have experience in mission conversion, with many notable accomplishments along the way. After they started the new mission of flying the C-21 in 2007, they began supporting missions for the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC) in 2008, providing airlift to dignitaries all over the U.S.

In March the Happy Hooligans were awarded the 2009 JOSAC Squadron of the Year award, definitely making their mark in the C-21 world and an example of the aftereffects of a successful mission conversion.

"It's a prestigious award and being so new into the mission we are very proud of the accomplishment, especially since we were competing against airlift squadrons from all branches of the military," Lt. Col. Rick Omang, C-21 Squadron commander.

The Ghanaians will have a busy week with the Happy Hooligans. Some of the activities planned will include an in-depth overview of the 119th Wing conversion plan, instruction on how to upgrade flying lesson plans, instruction books and manuals.

The visitors will also get a summary of the flight operations and standards program and how to implement an effective evaluation, records management and safety program.

North Dakota has been partners with Ghana since 2004 as part of the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, which is sponsored by the Department of Defense. The program aligns states with partner countries to encourage the development of economic, political and military ties.

During the past six years, more than 180 North Dakota Guardsmen, Ghana military members and civilians have taken part in State Partnership Program events and workshops.

Media is invited to attend portions of the Ghanaian's visit. Please contact Penny Ripperger, 119th Wing public affairs officer, to arrange a time that would best accommodate schedules.
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