Happy Hooligans welcome home Airman from 14th Deployment

  • Published
  • By Capt. Penny Ripperger
  • 119th Wing Public Affairs
Tomorrow the North Dakota Air National Guard will welcome a dedicated Happy Hooligan returning home from Afghanistan on United Airlines flight 6554 at 4:02 p.m.

Lt. Col. Dan Bertsch, a staff judge advocate (SJA), and one of the senior attorney's in the North Dakota Air National Guard, will return from his 14th deployment, all of which have been voluntary, since the Global War on Terrorism began nearly nine years ago.

Shortly after arriving, Bertsch will swear in his daughter's boyfriend, Brian Smelden into the North Dakota Air National Guard while at the airport. His daughter Katie and Smelden have been dating for three years.

Of his many deployments, most recently Bertsch deployed to Iraq in 2008 for seven months. Shortly after returning from Iraq in April 2009, he left for Afghanistan in June of that same year to serve for an additional year.

"When I was in Iraq, I was asked if I'd go to Afghanistan to mentor for a year. I didn't say no because I hope to make a difference and I didn't want to turn down an opportunity where I might be able to do just that," Bertsch said.

While in Afghanistan, Bertsch was assigned to the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing at the Kabul International Airport in Kabul Afghanistan, serving as the staff judge advocate and legal mentor to the Afghan National Army Air Corps.

"I was assigned to the Combined Air Power Transition Force as a legal mentor and the SJA of the 438 AEW. I mentored the Afghan National Army Air Corp and started mentoring the Kabul Wing there," Bertsch said.

The Combined Air Power Transition Force advisory team is responsible for training Air Corp Legal Advisors as they oversee more than four hundred Afghanistan National Army Air Corps personnel whose mission is to maintain and operate their fleet of Russian-made Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters, An-32 cargo planes and Italian-made C-27 airlift aircraft.

Prior to Bertsch's deployment to Afghanistan, he served in Iraq as the deputy director for the Law and Order Task Force in Sadr City, Baghdad. While he was in this position he was responsible for the day to day operations including four mentoring teams, investigators, intelligence and convoy movements.

"We mentored Iraqi civilian panel judges, investigative judges, investigators and record keepers," Bertsch said.

Two fellow Happy Hooligans-- his sister, Master Sgt. Gayle Gibson of the 119th Wing Medical Squadron and his brother Senior Master Sgt. Steve Bertsch of the 119th Wing Fire Hall -- will be in the crowd of the eager family members and friends expected to welcome him home at the airport.

Bertsch is originally from Hillsboro, N.D. He has four daughters, Erin and Katie in Fargo and Sarah and Emily in Hillsboro. He is the son of Alvin and Shirley Bertsch of Hillsboro.

Of Bertsch's 14 deployments, he has deployed overseas three times. In addition to his recent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, in 2003 he deployed to Naples with Allied Air Forces, Southern Europe (AIRSOUTH) whose area of responsibility included Bosnia and Kosovo.

A deployment consists of a trip away from a person's home of record for a minimum of 30 days. Most of Bertsch's deployments have ranged from 120 days up to 14 months.

The public is invited to show their appreciation by welcoming him home at the airport.

For more information about this news release, please contact Capt. Penny Ripperger at 701-451-2194.

For information on current flight times, please call the Hector IAP automated information center at: 701-241-8168.