News: Hundreds of 'Happy Hooligans' honored for active-duty service
FARGO, N.D. — The North Dakota Air National Guard’s “Happy Hooligans” were among the first called into service following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when the unit’s F-16 fighter jets were scrambled from an alert detachment at Langley Air Force Base, Va. That service has continued with a bevy of active-duty missions ever since. Today, hundreds of North Dakota airmen who have served on active-duty orders were honored at the Fargo base during a Hometown Heroes ceremony.
"The North Dakota Air National Guard has a proud history of defending this nation in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks," said Gov. Jack Dalrymple. "Today, we honor the men and women of the 119th Wing and their families for their outstanding service and selfless sacrifice, and for all they have done to preserve America's freedoms for future generations."
The first Hometown Heroes event took place in 2010 and honored those who had served during the first eight years of the Global War on Terrorism. Today’s ceremony, the second ever, thanked the airmen who have served on more than 30 consecutive days of active duty between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010.
“From serving as pilots and crew chiefs to deploying on firefighting and Services Flight missions, the Happy Hooligans have demonstrated competence and adaptability in an ever-changing global environment as they’ve moved from traditional guardsmen to active-duty forces and back again,” said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general.
More than 250 airmen received one or more awards dependent upon their service time: Those who served on active-duty orders for 30-179 days, those who served 180-365 days and those who served more than 365 consecutive days.
Their families were recognized with awards, as well.
“Our families are the ones who have the toughest jobs. When we deploy, we go forward and we are very focused on what we are doing, everything is structured for us and laid out. For our families, there is no instruction manual on how to run a household with four kids while their loved one is deployed for 6 months to a year. I can’t say it enough, thank you to the families of the 119th Wing and the National Guard as a whole,” Col. Rick Gibney, 119th Wing commander, told the families in the audience.
Each guardsman also was given a Center of Influence medallion to present to the person of their choosing in recognition of that person’s support during the mission.
Other speakers who thanked the airmen and their families during today’s outdoor event at Heritage Park, with a backdrop of planes throughout the Happy Hooligans history, included Sen. John Hoeven and Congressman Rick Berg.
Today’s event coincided with Family Day activities to bring together parents, spouses and children on base.