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Last aircraft to leave NDANG as flying mission ends

One of the most historic days in the 66-year history of the North Dakota Air National Guard was marked Tuesday, Aug. 27.

Since February 1947, a month after the Air Guard was first established in the state, the Airmen known as the Happy Hooligans have been successfully flying and maintaining aircraft. On Tuesday, the last C-21 Learjet left the Fargo base for good, and there will be no aircraft replacing it.

The lack of an active flying mission not only marks a first for the Happy Hooligans, but it makes North Dakota the only state in the nation without a manned Air National Guard flying mission.

Media and military members were invited to the Fargo base for a press conference at Heritage Park in north Fargo, concluding with the takeoff of the last remaining aircraft yesterday.

Among the event’s speakers were retired Maj. Gen. Alexander Macdonald, who commanded the North Dakota Air National Guard prior to serving as the state’s first Air National Guard adjutant general. He retired in 1993 after having served for 45 years and flying more than 10,000 hours across every fighter aircraft the unit was assigned. Also speaking was Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, and Col. Kent Olson, who commands the North Dakota Air National Guard.

Olson and Col. Brad Derrig, vice commander, will flew the last N.D. Air National Guard aircraft out of Fargo. Each officer has flown more than 3,000 hours on missions around the globe during their lengthy careers. This was their last flight for the N.D. Air National Guard as they pilot C-21A, tail number 84-0064, to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

Today, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force there will accept the plane as its first C-21 in the museum.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 4,000 Soldiers and more than 2,400 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. About 70 percent of all members serving today have joined since that time. Currently, about 40 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas and more than 200 are serving in Washington, D.C., and on the southwest border of the United States. With a total force of about 4,400 Guardsmen, the North Dakota National Guard remains ready for stateside response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that’s more than four times the national average.