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    NY Air Guard's 109th Airlift Wing wraps up COVID-19 modified support to Antarctic research

    109th Airlift Wing on mission in Antarctica

    Courtesy Photo | A New York Air National Guard Airman on duty in Antarctica on Feb. 5, 2021 during a...... read more read more



    Story by Jaclyn Lyons 

    New York National Guard

    STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, New York--The New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing wrapped up its 33rd season of supporting American science research in Antarctic as 73 Airmen and three LC-130 “Skibirds” returned to Stratton Air National Guard Base outside Schenectady, New York, February 24 to 27.

    From November through February, the Airmen provided support to the United States Antarctic research efforts as part of Operation Deep Freeze, the Department of Defense’s annual support to the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic program.

    The Airmen and Aircraft were based at the Christchurch International Airport in Christchurch New Zealand after completing COVID quarantine requirements for the country of New Zealand.

    The planes and crews were on standby in New Zealand instead of basing at the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station.

    Normally the 109th Airlift Wing sends six to seven planes and around 250 Airmen to McMurdo during the support season, which runs from October until March, the summer months in Antarctica.

    This season the crews based in New Zealand and only flew to Antarctic to conduct missions as needed in order to minimize the chance of the COVID-19 infection getting loose in the enclosed environments of Antarctic research stations.

    “The season was a lot different this year- we ran Operation Deep Freeze from New Zealand, not your typical routine- the trip in all was great, successful and out of the ordinary” explained MSgt Mike Hill, Crew Chief for the LC-130.

    Eventually the 109th Airmen completed a total of six missions within Antarctica. They flew three medivac missions, transported an estimated 148 researchers and support staff, and delivered 63,000 pounds of critical cargo to research stations within the continent.

    “The trip in all was great, successful and out of the ordinary” said Hill.

    Col. Christian Sander, the 109th Airlift Wing Commander, deployed as the Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica commander and also the 13 Air Expeditionary Group commander.

    “Our Airmen rose to the challenge of having a smaller deployed footprint, intense COVID safety protocols and uncertain mission requirements, making this season unlike any other,” Sander said.

    “ Despite these limitations, the unit was able to safely provide critical supplies and essential personnel to McMurdo Station, Antarctica during a time when no other aircraft could,” he added.

    The LC-130’s flown by the 109th Airlift Wing are the largest aircraft in the world which can land on snow and ice using skies.

    The LC-130 is able to land on the runway during a time that wheeled aircraft were unable to. This enabled three critical cargo loads to be delivered within the continent.

    Operation Deep Freeze, the military component of the U.S. Antarctic Program, is managed by the National Science Foundation.

    The unique capabilities of the ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft make it the only one of its kind in the U.S. military, able to land on snow and ice.



    Date Taken: 03.01.2021
    Date Posted: 03.02.2021 15:53
    Story ID: 390373
    Hometown: SCOTIA, NY, US

    Web Views: 279
    Downloads: 0