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Hooligans Honored for Flight Safety
September 16, 2004

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The North Dakota Air National Guard's enviable flying safety record was celebrated today. The Major General John J. Pesch Flight Safety Trophy was awarded to the 119th Fighter Wing before delegates attending the 126th National Guard Association of the United States general conference in Las Vegas. Nevada.

This is the latest is a series of awards and honors presented to the 119th Fighter Wing for an exceptional flying safety record. The trophy is named after a former Director of the Air National Guard and is awarded annually to two Air National Guard wings demonstrating the highest standards of flight safety. The 119th Fighter Wing was previously awarded the Maj. Gen. John J. Pesch Flight Safety Trophy in 2003, 2002 and 2000.

119th Fighter Wing Commander, Colonel Robert Becklund, called back with the news of this latest honor. "Safety is something we emphasis at all levels, and this level of performance is earned one day at a time, one flight at a time," Becklund said. Becklund served as the Chief of Safety from Nov. 1995 to April 2000 at the 119th Fighter Wing, adding "This feat is only possible because of the diligent work of thousands of Happy Hooligans over the past 30-plus years."

The National Guard Bureau award was presented by the current Director, Air National Guard, Lt. Gen. Daniel James III and received by Becklund, Col. Patrick Martin, Col. Michael Wobbema and Col. Richard Utecht. The Pesch trophy is one of many awards presented prior to today's address by Sen. John Kerry, Democratic Party candidate for President.

The 119th Fighter Wing operates F-16 fighter aircraft from facilities at Hector International Airport in Fargo and their permanent air defense alert detachment at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. Since 1990, the 'Happy Hooligans' have flown more than 65,171 hours in F-16 aircraft without an accident from dozens of locations around the world, in a variety of weather conditions, during daylight and nighttime hours. That achievement coupled with another 51, 609 hours of accident free flying in F-4 fighters and plus an additional 20,860 flight hours in F-101 fighter aircraft is the longest continuous period of safe and effective fighter aircraft operations for any Air National Guard fighter unit and one of best safety records in U.S. Air Force history.

Pilots at the 119th Fighter Wing continually assess weather conditions, aircraft maintenance status, training needs, higher headquarters requirements and apply appropriate risk management skills in conducting safe operations. Pilot readiness is enhanced by periodic training against other types of aircraft, use of established training areas outside North Dakota, bird strike avoidance techniques and mid-air collision avoidance practices.

The National Guard Association of the United States is a non-partisan organization representing nearly 45,000 current and former National Guard officers. It was formed in 1878 to obtaining better equipment, standardized training and a more combat-ready force by petitioning Congress for resources. Today, well over a century later, NGAUS has the same mission.


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