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NEWS | March 19, 2010

JOSAC recognizes three Guard flying units

By From news releases

ARLINGTON, Va., - Three Army and Air National Guard flying units were named "Unit of the Year" by the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC) for 2009.

The 177th Airlift Squadron of the North Dakota Air National Guard received the Unit of the Year award in the Air Force's small aircraft category. Detachment 40 of the Missouri Army National Guard was the unit of the year in the Small Army-West category, while Detachment 36 of the Illinois Army National Guard won the Small Army-East category.

"The Happy Hooligans continue to excel in all their missions," said Army Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, the adjutant general of North Dakota. "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 with the C-21A Lear Jet. In 2008, they began supporting missions for JOSAC, providing airlift to dignitaries all over the United States.

"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, the 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 award, Navy Capt. Peter R. Davenport, chief of JOSAC, said, "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 North Dakota Air Guard has embraced the C-21 mission. 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 2012.

Also, 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, Guard officials said.

"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 Decatur-based Illinois Army National Guard unit led the eastern part of the nation with more than 670 flight hours and 164 missions across all parts of the U.S. They transported about 700 passengers and hundreds of pounds of cargo in 2009.

"It is a nice honor to be recognized for what we have done," said Chief Warrant Officer (5) James Marley of Cerro Gordo, the detachment commander. "Our primary focus is to assure our pilots and personnel are trained and ready to deploy anywhere at any time. Real-life missions are much better training than any training flight."

Detachment 36 is a unique group of eight personnel, who are tasked with flying a C-12 military aircraft to different parts of the country, transporting military personnel and cargo seven days a week.

The aircraft is smaller than most fixed wing military aircraft, holding up to 10 military personnel per flight. The unit's total flight hours were 641.57. It flew 100 missions with 490 passengers, JOSAC officials said.

"Many of the flights are for Soldiers or leadership personnel traveling to different parts of Illinois or other states on military orders," Marley said. "The flights help save federal money since the servicemember is not using commercial transportation, while giving us valuable flight time and real mission experience. It is a win-win."

Detachment 40, a unit based in Jefferson City, Mo., deployed to Afghanistan in August of last year.

During the deployment, the unit has flown distinguished visitors around Afghanistan, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Don Muschler. Flying primarily in the C-12 Huron, a twin-engine turboprop airplane, the unit performs similar missions in Missouri when not deployed.

The nine-member unit trained at Fort Benning, Ga., where they completed pre-mobilization exercises then deployed to Afghanistan in support of the Global War on Terror.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Danner, the adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, said he is extremely proud of the unit's accomplishments.

"This is an auspicious occasion," Danner said. "The unit has done extremely well. Their role is vital and all of Missouri takes pride in what they are doing and prays for their safe return."

Detachment 36 was mobilized in 2007 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The seven-person crew flew more than 450 combat missions during a seven-month time span in support of U.S. Central Command. The group expects to be deployed to Afghanistan this fall.

This award recognizes Marley and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Darin Anderson, the two full-time pilots, who support most of the missions. Sgt. 1st Class Jaime Perrot is the full-time operations coordinator, who schedules the flights. The others who were honored include: Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kim Schwab, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Charles Maroon, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen Kenney and Sgt. Nathaniel Chambers.

"We never expected to be recognized for doing our job," Marley said. "It is great to know we are appreciated and we are a success in the eyes of others in the nation."

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. Units are comprised of aircraft squadrons from all branches, to include the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force.

(Capt. Penny Rippenger of the North Dakota National and Mike Chrisman of the Illinois National Guard contributed to this report.)