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Dave Olson, Published January 01 2009

Warm welcome: Hooligans back from Kuwait mission

It’s good to see snow instead of sand,” said Donald Clarke, moments after the staff sergeant stepped off the plane Wednesday at Fargo’s Hector International Airport.

Clarke and four other members of the 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard – better known as the Happy Hooligans – were returning from Kuwait, where they had been deployed since late summer.

“I can’t wait to get to sleep in my bed,” said Clarke as he was greeted by members of his family.

“Everything went good. All the work we had, everything got done,” said Clarke, the veteran of a previous overseas deployment.

He said he may deploy again in the coming year, but he said he’ll probably be going back for sure in 2010.

Fellow Staff Sgt. Jacob Thiel was also returning home Wednesday from his second stint overseas, having served his first one in Baghdad.

“We’re old pros by now, right?” said Thiel’s girlfriend, Shanna Marthaler, as she met him with smiles and hugs.

“You don’t have to shovel anymore,” Thiel told Marthaler.

“It’s been quite a winter,” agreed Marthaler, who said she got word on Christmas that her boyfriend would be getting home earlier than thought.

“This was a nice Christmas present,” she said. “I’m very proud, but very glad he’s home.”

In addition to the five who arrived around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, another two airmen were scheduled to get into Fargo later Wednesday.

“What we have here is the leading edge of a variety of Happy Hooligans who have been deployed,” said Col. Robert Becklund, commander of the state’s Air National Guard, who was on hand for the arrival of the airmen.

Others members of the 119th will be returning in coming weeks.

Approximately 40 are still deployed overseas performing a variety of tasks.

“We’re mission support. So we take care of the troops – down range – with air-conditioning, plumbing, electrical. Anything like that,” said Thiel.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555