Happy Hooligans fly first UAS mission from Fargo

Happy Hooligan Predator operators are seated at their positions in the Ground Control Station (US Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. David H. Lipp)

Happy Hooligan Predator operators are seated at their positions in the Ground Control Station (US Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. David H. Lipp)

Fargo, N.D. -- Governor John Hoeven and North Dakota National Guard (NDNG) Adjutant General, Major General David Sprynczynatyk, announced that the 119th Wing, N.D. Air National Guard (NDANG), flew its first Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) mission from Fargo, N.D., July 2nd.

The squadron, also known as the Happy Hooligans, is now flying the MQ-1 Predator, a medium-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft. The MQ-1's primary mission is interdiction and reconnaissance.

In January 2007, the 119th Wing converted from the F-16A Fighting Falcon jet mission to the new missions of the UAS and the C-21A Lear Jet cargo aircraft. The C-21A Lear Jet is an interim aircraft leading to the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) which is expected to be available by 2011.

"This is an example of how truly incredible the members of the N.D. National Guard are, Governor Hoeven said.

"Our Soldiers and Airmen continue to make significant contributions on the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now they are able to do it right from Fargo."

"This week marks the beginning of a new era and an exciting future for the North Dakota Air National Guard. The 119th Wing is at the forefront of future unmanned aircraft systems, said Major Gen. Sprynczynatyk.

"The hard work and dedication of the Happy Hooligans have made this a very successful transition. The 119th Wing is leading the way and will stay relevant for years to come."

"The N.D. Air National Guard has flown fighters for 60 years, but now, we're bringing all of the skills from the fighter mission into the Predator mission, said Colonel Robert Becklund, 119th Wing commander.

"This is a dramatic and cultural change for our unit and we're proud to be a part of this new and exciting mission."

Throughout the transition, 119th Wing personnel have been training for the new positions of the MQ-1 Predator mission.

"It is great to be a part of this air and space power mission. Our squadron is committed to maintain the traditional high standards the Happy Hooligans are known for, said Lieutenant Col. Rick Gibney, commander of the reconnaissance squadron.

"It is exciting and rewarding to be a part of this mission that involves the global war on terrorism, homeland security and domestic contingencies."