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By Sgt. 1st Class Zach Sheely,
National Guard Bureau
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The North Dakota Air National Guard's 178th Attack Squadron was presented with the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies' General Atomics Remotely Piloted Aircraft Trophy for 2021 at the 2022 Air and Space Forces Association's Air, Space and Cyber Conference this week.
The 178th is the first National Guard unit to earn this award, presented annually for outstanding performance by RPA squadrons in achieving intelligence, surveillance, persistent attack, and reconnaissance over the preceding year.
"The 'Happy Hooligans' (the nickname of 119th personnel) are honored to be awarded the prestigious General Atomics trophy, representing the USAF's outstanding remotely piloted unit," said Col. Mitch Johnson, the 119th Wing commander. "The North Dakota Air National Guard's 178th Attack Squadron, part of the 119th Wing, continues to expertly execute our missions, build teams, and exemplify the National Guard's ethos: 'Always Ready, Always There.'"
The squadron's personnel fly the state-of-the-art MQ-9 Reaper, a medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft capable of precision attack and reconnaissance.
The 119th Wing, based out of Fargo, North Dakota, was one of the first Air National Guard units to convert to remotely piloted aircraft in 2007. The wing operated the MQ-1 Predator until 2016, when it converted to the MQ-9.
Its mission is to provide trained and ready Airmen to execute world-class MQ-9 precision attack and reconnaissance, kinetic and non-kinetic target intelligence production, and expeditionary support capabilities for the nation and state.
Personnel of the 119th are rapidly deployable and have participated in exercises and contingency operations worldwide.
In addition to warfighting efforts, remotely piloted aircraft have been used domestically to support firefighting and search and rescue operations. They can also be used for incident awareness and assessment in fires, floods and other natural disasters.
"In 2021, the 178th Attack Squadron continually stayed on the leading edge of MQ-9 warfighting excellence and innovation," said Maj. Gen. Keith MacDonald, the Air National Guard Readiness Center commander. "The Happy Hooligans' many accomplishments while protecting the American people, our homeland, and the American way of life, distinctly identify them as the USAF's most outstanding RPA squadron."
The wing has a proud record of accomplishments over the years, including being named as a U.S. Air Force Outstanding Unit 23 times. It has also earned the Hughes Trophy and the USAF Daedalian Maintenance Trophy presented to the most deserving Air Force unit.
These accomplishments reflect the efforts of the unit's personnel and showcase the competence and lethality of the Air National Guard as a whole, MacDonald said.
"Air National Guard RPA units contribute combat power to the Total Force needed to safeguard our nation's interests worldwide," he said.