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Happy Hooligans named JOSAC Squadron of the Year

Lt. Col. Rick Omang, a C-21 pilot assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Operations Group, conducts a pre-flight inspection prior to conducting combat operations over Southwest Asia July 26. The C-21 is a twin turbofan engine aircraft used for cargo and passenger airlift. Colonel Omang is deployed from the 177th Airlift Squadron, North Dakota Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

Lt. Col. Rick Omang, 178th Airlift Squadron commander, North Dakota Air National Guard, performs a preflight inspection before conducting combat operations July 26, 2009 while deployed in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller/Released)

Maj. Jon R. Wutzke, 178th Fighter Squadron, pilots a North Dakota Air National Guard C-21 aircraft during take-off at Hector International Airport, Fargo, N.D.   (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. David H. Lipp) (Released)

Maj. Jon R. Wutzke, 178th Fighter Squadron, pilots a North Dakota Air National Guard C-21 aircraft during take-off at Hector International Airport, Fargo, N.D. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. David H. Lipp) (Released)

Fargo, N.D. -- A prominent Department of Defense award was recently bestowed on the North Dakota Air National Guard. The Happy Hooligans' 177th Airlift Squadron received the 2009 Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC) Squadron of the Year award for the U.S. Air Force in the small aircraft category.

"This is a prestigious award and speaks volumes about the talents and abilities of the Happy Hooligans. These Airmen were the best in the world when they flew fighters, and now, after only a couple of years into their new mission of the C-21 Lear Jet, they have once again proven that they are the best in the nation," said N.D. Gov. John Hoeven.

JOSAC is the airlift branch of the U.S. Transportation Command, headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Ill, that specializes in air transportation of senior defense officials within the continental U.S. Currently, 89 units support JOSAC, with the Happy Hooligans being one of them. Units are comprised of aircraft squadrons from all branches, to include the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force.

"The Happy Hooligans continue to excel in all their missions," said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, N.D. adjutant general. "The 119th Wing, through a multitude of aircraft, continues to demonstrate superior performance worthy of Department of Defense recognition. These Airmen ensure that the North Dakota National Guard leads the way in excellence for the entire nation."


After the Happy Hooligans ended their 60-year fighter mission in January 2007, they started the new mission of the C-21A Lear Jet. In 2008 they began supporting missions for JOSAC, providing airlift to dignitaries all over the U.S.

"JOSAC is a unique mission for us because our pilots get to interact with so many individuals on a daily basis. You can be sure that the Happy Hooligans and the great state of North Dakota are recognized by our customers," said Lt. Col. Rick Omang, 177th Airlift Squadron commander.

The Happy Hooligans have been in the lead since October 2009 for the number of missions they have flown for JOSAC. From October to February, they flew 997 hours, which is 141 hours more than any other unit in their category flying for JOSAC in the nation.

"Our customers often request us to fly for them because we keep our aircraft in excellent condition, we're well-trained at what we do, and we treat our passengers with the Midwest hospitality that the Happy Hooligans are known for," said Omang.

In a letter announcing the JOSAC Squadron of the Year award, Navy Capt. Peter R. Davenport, chief of JOSAC, stated, "The 177th Airlift Squadron's dedication and professionalism set the mark for all other C-21 units in the Department of Defense. We sincerely appreciate the superior effort of your Happy Hooligans, crews and support personnel alike, while performing the OSA (operational support airlift) mission."

The N.D. Air Guard has embraced the C-21 mission and made it their own. The Happy Hooligans made Air Force history by creating a military maintenance program for the C-21 aircraft at the 119th Wing. This was the first of its kind program for the entire Air Force since the maintenance of C-21s had previously been done by civilian contractors. Because of this program, N.D. Airmen were able to keep their maintenance jobs while waiting for the new C-27J Spartan aircraft mission that is expected to arrive in about 2012.

In addition, last summer the Happy Hooligans deployed several of their C-21 Lear Jets, to include pilots and maintenance personnel, to Qatar, which was another first for the 119th Wing. Never before had the Happy Hooligans deployed their aircraft into a theater of war. Within two months of being deployed, they won 'Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit of the Month' in June 2009.

The Happy Hooligans have been making a name for themselves from the start with the C-21 mission and they don't plan on stopping anytime soon, leaders say.

"Regardless of what we're flying, whether it's the current mission of the C-21 or our future mission of the C-27, we will do everything we can to ensure that we are the best at it. That's what being a Happy Hooligan is all about," said Omang. "It's still early, but we're already ahead for the most JOSAC flying hours for March. Hopefully we'll keep it up and take the lead for the sixth month in a row."

The JOSAC Squadron of the Year award will be formally presented at the N.D. National Guard Professional Development Workshop taking place at the Holiday Inn on Friday in the Great Hall at approximately 11 a.m.

Distinguished visitors expected to attend the award presentation include N.D. Gov. John Hoeven; Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, director of the Air National Guard; Lt. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, 18th Air Force commander at Scott Air Force Base; Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter, acting director of the Army National Guard; Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, N.D. adjutant general; and Brig. Gen. Patrick Martin, N.D. deputy adjutant general.

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

Media is invited to attend the ceremony presentation. C-21A Lear Jet b-roll and high-resolution photographs are also available upon request.
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What: Happy Hooligans receive JOSAC Squadron of the Year award- official award to be presented during the N.D. National Guard Professional Development Workshop

Where: Fargo Holiday Inn, 3803 13th Ave S, Fargo

When: Friday, March 12 at approximately 11 a.m.
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