FARGO, N.D. — The North Dakota Air National Guard, known as the Happy Hooligans, recognized the organization's top Airman and Noncommissioned Officers at its annual Outstanding Airman of the Year banquet on March 3 at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Fifteen Airmen were nominated for the award based on their military and civic service throughout 2017. Ultimately, three winners walked away with the titles of Outstanding Airman, Outstanding Noncommissioned Officer and Outstanding Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
The North Dakota Army National Guard's Fargo-based 188th Army Band provided entertainment to the Hooligans and their distinguished guests. Senior North Dakota Air National Guard leaders, Brig. Gen. Bob Becklund, deputy adjutant general and Brig. Gen. Todd Branden, assistant adjutant general, air component, rendered remarks.
"I want to convey to all you nominees and winners what an impressive and inspiring group you are," said Becklund. "I think it's really important for you to know that we (leadership) are the recipients of incredible compliments from everywhere because of your professionalism and accomplishments, and that is not an exaggeration."
"These Airmen have proven to excel in all areas of service and have done many great things for the Happy Hooligans, the state of North Dakota and for our nation," Branden remarked. "The 119th Wing has some of the finest Airmen the Air Force has to offer and you are the best of the best."
Following remarks, initial awards were presented to Tech. Sgt. Nathan Svenkerud and Senior Master Sgt. Chris Walberg. Svenkerud was named Outstanding Unit Career Advisor of the Year for his individual efforts and achievement with unit retention and career motivation program management. Walberg was named First Sergeant of the Year, which recognizes the important contributions and leadership qualities exhibited by first sergeants in the Air Force.
Finally, the three Outstanding Airmen of the Year winners were announced. Senior Airman Maggie Swenson was named Outstanding Airman of the Year; Staff Sgt. Crystal Telling was selected as the Outstanding Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; and Master Sgt. Kurt Lilley earned the coveted Outstanding Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year recognition.
Senior Airman Maggie Swenson
Senior Airman Maggie Swenson enlisted in the North Dakota Air National Guard in April 2015 and serves an aerospace medical technician with the 119th Medical Group.
Swenson is a native of Fargo and graduated from Fargo North High School. She resides in Fargo where she is in her junior year at North Dakota State University pursuing a degree in veterinary technology.
Swenson is involved in various campus organizations including Saddle and Sirloin, Vet Tech Club and Collegiate Farm Bureau. Through these organizations, Swenson volunteers at Cat's Cradle Shelter, Great Plains Food Bank and various campus events. Additionally, Swenson enjoys snowboarding, wakeboarding and horseback riding. She unwinds by painting or reading.
Staff Sgt. Crystal Telling
Staff Sgt. Crystal Telling enlisted in the North Dakota Air National Guard in August 2015 and serves as a financial management technician in the 119th Comptroller Flight. Telling previously served in the Alaska Air National Guard from 2009-2015.
Telling was born and raised in North Pole, Alaska where she graduated from North Pole High School. She currently resides in Fargo with her husband and children and holds a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in business management from the University of Mary.
Telling is active in the community with the New Life Center where she volunteers to serve meals to homeless individuals. She is also an active member of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States. Her hobbies include fantasy football, game nights and spending time with family and friends.
Master Sgt. Kurt Lilley
Master Sgt. Kurt Lilley enlisted in the North Dakota Air National Guard in October 2011 and serves as an analyst for the North Dakota National Guard's counter drug program. He previously served as a response force leader and flight security controller with the 219th Security Forces Squadron. Lilley's service also includes four years in the U.S. Marine Corps and eight years with the North Dakota Army National Guard.
Lilley was raised in Belcourt where he graduated from Turtle Mountain Community High School. He resides in Minot and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice, with a concentration in forensic science, from the University of North Dakota.
Lilley is active in the community serving meals at the local soup kitchen and spending time with residents at an elderly care center with his daughter. He is also active at his local church and volunteers often to assist with church events. In his down time, Lilley loves working out, especially cross-fit work-outs. He also enjoys golfing and spending time at the lake.
The North Dakota National Guard is a trained and highly motivated force of about 4,000 Citizen-Soldiers and Citizen-Airmen. We are always prepared to provide ready units, individuals and equipment in support of our communities, state and nation. Always ready, always there.