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Happy Hooligans return home from historic mission

Airmen from the 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard, stand in front of a C-21 Lear Jet in South West Asia.  For the first time in the history of the U.S. Central Command, the C-21s, the military version of the Learjet 35A, are being maintained by Airmen rather than contractors.

Airmen from the 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard, stand in front of a C-21 Lear Jet in South West Asia. For the first time in the history of the U.S. Central Command, the C-21s, the military version of the Learjet 35A, are being maintained by Airmen rather than contractors.

Fargo, N.D. -- A historic mission for the 119th Wing will be completed this week as the Happy Hooligans welcome home 40 Airmen and one of their own C-21A Lear Jets from southwest Asia.

"This mission is a notable occasion for us because in addition to deploying our personnel, we also sent two our C-21's into theater. We have been flying jets for over 60 years, but this was the first deployment that the Hooligans have ever sent jets into a theater of war," said Col. Kent Olson, 119th Wing vice commander.

The Airmen from the 119th Wing, consisting primarily of maintenance and operations personnel, deployed in various shifts in support of this mission since May 2009. Their primary responsibilities consisted of piloting and maintaining the C-21A Lear Jet aircraft.
The 119th Wing deployed two of their C-21A Lear Jets to southwest Asia, the second jet is expected to return home at the end of September.

In addition to making history for the 119th Wing as the first overseas C-21A Lear Jet deployment, the deployed Happy Hooligans also accomplished a significant milestone for the Air Force as the first unit in the history of the U.S. Central Command to have the military Lear Jets maintained by Airmen and not civilian contractors.

"Military pilots have been flying the C-21 in the area of responsibility for at least 10 years and our unit was tasked to fulfill this mission. Since we were supporting the mission with Guard aircraft, the decision was made to bring in our maintenance personnel as well," said Olson.

Another accomplishment made by the Happy Hooligans in the short time they were deployed to the area of responsibility (AOR) is that they won the Aircraft Maintenance Unit of the month in June.

"This was the first time we have been in the AOR with our jets and we were determined to show everyone the side of the Happy Hooligans that earn respect through hard work and attention to detail," said Capt. Grant Larson, 119th Wing maintenance squadron commander and officer in charge throughout the deployment.

"We had some tough competition, but we managed to outscore our peers in each maintenance category to win the award. We are very proud of this accomplishment, especially since we had been in the AOR for less than a month when we received it."

A 119th Wing C-21A Lear Jet is scheduled to arrive at the 119th Wing late this afternoon; an exact arrival time is not yet available. Photos and video of the arrival will be available as soon as possible after the arrival per media request. Please contact Penny Ripperger, 119th Wing Public Affairs Officer at 701-451-2194 to request footage.

Seven Airmen arrived home from the deployment yesterday and five Airmen will be on the C-21 Lear Jet arriving this afternoon.

The remaining 28 Airmen will return via commercial flights throughout the week.

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

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