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  • Asking the Experts: A look inside the Happy Hooligans

  • Asking the Experts: A look inside the Happy Hooligans

    Asking the Experts: A look inside the Happy Hooligans

    The Chamber is a proud to support the military through our advocacy, Military Affairs committee, Honor Star program and more. With an Air National Guard base right here in Fargo, they not only contribute to our local economy, but affect our community in a multitude of ways and defend our nation. We talked with the commander of the Happy Hooligans for an overview of their history, missions, impact and recruiting efforts.

    This month's expert:
    Colonel Darrin Anderson

    Commander, 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard

    Please provide us with an overview of the 119th Wing of the Air National Guard.
    The North Dakota Air National Guard (NDANG), well-known as the Happy Hooligans, was established on January 16, 1947. The unit was organized as the 178th Fighter Squadron, and its headquarters was initially located at the National Guard Armory in downtown Fargo. Within months, the 178th grew its numbers from 23 officers and 44 enlisted to 50 officers and 299 enlisted and its fleet of aircraft to more than two dozen. The early years brought training to support national defense of the northern boundary of the U.S. and an activation and deployment to support U.S. Air Force efforts in the Korean War.

    The NDANG continued the homeland defense mission for several decades, culminating with the departure of the unit’s F-16s in 2007. Throughout the fighter era, the Happy Hooligans established the NDANG as a premier Air National Guard organization, becoming the first guard unit to win prestigious awards such as the William Tell Trophy for top unit in fighter competition, the Hughes Achievement Award for most outstanding fighter unit, and the Daedalion Maintenance Trophy for best maintenance unit.

    The tradition of excellence has carried forward into today’s missions at the 119th Wing. The Happy Hooligans current missions provide trained and ready Airmen executing world-class MQ-9 precision attack and reconnaissance, kinetic and non-kinetic target intelligence production and expeditionary support capabilities for the nation and state.  These missions directly contribute to the national defense strategy, as well as protection of our state and communities.

    The NDANG presently has over 1,150 personnel assigned, 95% of its authorized strength. The 119th Wing is always in search of new recruits to join its winning team. There are positions available in many career fields, as well as many professional development opportunities. Our Airmen often find their military skills cross-over into their civilian careers, contributing to success in the private sector.

    How has the 119th Wing helped to support the fight against COVID-19?
    Various elements of the North Dakota National Guard, including the 119th Wing, have been activated since March of this year to support the fight against COVID-19. Approximately 40 Happy Hooligans were activated to assist with deep-cleaning of long-term care facilities, assist with mass-testing events and aid the state’s testing lab.

    What economic impact does the 119th Wing have on our region?
    According to a 2016 study conducted by North Dakota State University, the Happy Hooligans had an economic impact of over $97 million. Direct spending in the F-M area was nearly $52 million based on averages from fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The NDANG has over 400 full-time jobs, which contributed to over $600,000 in property tax and local sales tax collections. Since the 2016 study, the NDANG has constructed a $7.3 million intelligence building, and has plans to construct a $17 million consolidated operations building in the near future. Construction projects such as these have a significant positive economic impact for the local area.

    What do recruitment efforts look like and what are some of the benefits of enlisting?
    The 119th Wing recruiting team is comprised of 10 members located in Fargo, Bismarck and Minot. The team actively engages communities through high school and college visits, sharing information at community gatherings and events and having an active social media and online presence. Many of the over 70 career fields in the NDANG have current or projected openings. Benefits of joining may include bonuses of up $20,000, 100% tuition assistance, $734 per month GI Bill + kicker, paid and accredited training, training credits transferrable to colleges/universities and affordable healthcare. Visit GoNDAir.com or search @NDAirGuard on Facebook and Instagram for more information.

    What is Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)? What impact do military-friendly laws have on those decisions? How can we prepare for a potential future BRAC?
    Base realignment and closure (BRAC) is a congressionally authorized process the Department of Defense uses to assess and reorganize its base structure to more efficiently and effectively support its forces and increase operational readiness. Military-friendly laws at the state and local level have the potential to impact the decisions made during the BRAC process. Military-friendly laws also demonstrate support of the local military presence and may be seen as an incentive to facilitate retention and recruitment. The Happy Hooligans have deep appreciation for the support provided by The Chamber and the Military Affairs committee over the years. That continued support, coupled with support from the community as a whole, will help ensure the 119th Wing remains an integral component of our local area with enduring, relevant missions.

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