Palmer Retires, Hensel Promoted to Brigadier General

  • Published
  • By Capt. Penny Ripperger
  • 119th Wing Public Affairs
The Happy Hooligans witnessed a dramatic shift in leadership today as one Airman retired after 38 years of military service and another Airman took his place and was promoted to the rank of brigadier general during a Retirement, Promotion and Change of Command Ceremony at the N.D. Air National Guard's 119th Wing.

Brig.Gen. Alan Palmer, Grand Forks, N.D., officially retired from the N.D. Air National Guard, where he has served as the chief of staff since 2006.

"It's always a sad day when someone retires, but it's certainly a great day when we can recognize the achievements and congratulate someone for what they have done in service to their state and nation," said Maj.Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general.

Col. Cecil (Bud) Hensel, Jr., Frazee, Minn., was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and replaced Palmer as the new chief of staff for the N.D. Air National Guard.

"In all today, we are celebrating 97 years of military service for all three officers," said Sprynczynatyk adding up the years of dedicated military service of Palmer, Hensel and Army Col. Robert Walton, who also retired from the N.D. National Guard earlier that day.


Palmer began his military career when he enlisted into the Air Force in 1972. After serving as an electronic warfare specialist in several assignments, including a tour in Thailand; he joined the N.D. Air National Guard in 1981. During his N.D. Air National Guard career, he has held command positions in the Supply Squadron, Maintenance Squadron, Logistics Squadron, and the Support Group of the 119th Wing.

"To be a Happy Hooligan is one of my proudest accomplishments," said Palmer.

During today's ceremony, Palmer was presented the Legion of Merit medal, the second highest federal peacetime award. The citation recognized his distinguished career, saying he "offered invaluable and insightful leadership and expertise proving instrumental to the smooth functioning of a large, complex organization. Through General Palmer's strategic vision he formulated, planned, and instituted policies pivotal to the N.D. Air National Guard's superior success."

Palmer also received the N.D. Distinguished Service Medal, the Presidential Letter of Appreciation for Honorable Service of over 30 Years, the Certificate of Retirement, the Adjutant General's Letter of Appreciation and a U.S. flag cased in honor of his retirement.
Palmer's wife, Peg, also was honored during the ceremony with flowers and a Certificate of Appreciation for her support of her husband's military career. The certificate was given to her as a token of gratitude and a thank you for all that she has done for him throughout his military career.

At the end of the ceremony, a flag with one star, representing Palmer's military rank, was furled, representing the conclusion of his long and distinguished military career.


Today, Hensel took the place of Palmer as the new chief of staff for the Air National Guard. Prior to this position, he served as the vice chief of joint staff for support and director of staff for air since 2007.

Hensel began his military career as an ROTC graduate from North Dakota State University in 1981. He served as a pilot in the Air Force for 12 years before joining the N.D. Air National Guard as an F-16 fighter pilot in 1993. Since 2005, he has served at the Joint Force Headquarters as the assistant director of training, director of operations for air, the vice chief of joint staff for support and the director of staff for air.

His remarks during the ceremony focused on the importance of opportunities, he described the opportunities that he has been afforded in his life, such as the opportunity to be raised in a free nation, with caring parents, good teachers and his experience in the Air Force.

He also thanked Palmer for giving him the opportunity to become a Happy Hooligan when Palmer hired him for his first position in the N.D. Air National Guard in 1993.

"This is truly a great opportunity for me, one that I did not plan when I was a first lieutenant serving in the Air Force," said Hensel. "There's a plethora of opportunities in the N.D. National Guard. Each one of you Happy Hooligans can do more, learn more and achieve more than you ever thought possible. My challenge to you is to have the strength and presence of mind to seize these opportunities."

During the ceremony, Hensel received the Meritorious Service Medal for his distinguished performance of outstanding service to the U.S. while assigned to the N.D. Joint Force Headquarters.

During the commissioning portion of the ceremony, Hensel's sons, Air Force Capt. Jonathan Hensel and Staff Sgt. Brain Hensel, N.D. Air National Guard, helped pin his new rank of brigadier general to his uniform.

In his comments, Hensel thanked his family and friends for their support, with special recognition to his wife for her unwavering support over the past 30 years.

High resolution photos can be found at or contact Penny Ripperger, 119th Wing public affairs officer at 701-451-2194.

Video of the ceremony can also be found at