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Patrick Springer, Published September 18 2009

Delegation makes case for larger Hooligans role

North Dakota’s congressional delegation and governor pleaded with top-level Air Force brass Thursday for a bigger mission for the Happy Hooligans.

The delegation made a pitch for more new cargo planes and an expanded mission in flying drones that now are part of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said one of themes of the meeting was to emphasize the distinguished track record of the Happy Hooligans, the nickname for the 119th Air Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard, based in Fargo.

“All of us made the very strong case for the Happy Hooligans,” Dorgan said. In reply, Pentagon brass were complimentary of the unit’s track record, he said.

So far, the Air Force has slated four of a new type of cargo plane, the C-27, to the Hooligans. North Dakota is asking for another four of the planes when they are allocated later.

“We need to have eight to be most capable in carrying out our mission,” said Maj. Gen. Dave Sprynczynatyk, adjutant general of the North Dakota Air National Guard.

The officials also made the case for the Hooligans to fly the successor to the Predator, a drone now deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The next generation is called the Reaper.

The Happy Hooligans want to ensure that their role does not diminish in the future, when the Predator is phased out, Sprynczynatyk said.

The delegation met at the Pentagon with the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force as well as the director of the Air National Guard. North Dakota officials are hoping to learn about the scope of the Hooligans’ future mission in October or November.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522