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FOR RELEASE: Friday, Sep 25, 2009

109th Airlift Wing Prepares For Another Season On The Ice

New York Air National Guard Unit is Critical for US Antarctic Operations

STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, SCOTIA , NY (09/25/2009--Seven hundred Airmen from the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing and six LC-130 ski-equipped cargo planes will support National Science Foundation missions in Antarctica as part of the U.S. military's annual Operation Deep Freeze mission. The first two C-130s from the 109th, the only aircraft in the U.S. military equipped with skies for landing on snow and ice, will leave Stratton Air National Guard Base on October 21 for the long flight south. These early deploying aircraft will support the National Science Foundation's Western Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide Ice Core Project. This project involves drilling ice cores to establish a climate and greenhouse gas history for the southern hemisphere. The 109th will also support the Australians Casey Antarctic Station on Wilke Island for the first time. Based at the United States Antarctic Program base at McMurdo Station, the 109th flies an average of 450 missions during the 16 week Operation Deepfreeze season and carries about 12 million pounds of cargo around the continent annually. All supplies that reach the United State's Amundsen --Scott base at the South Pole are ferried there by the 109th. Over the last ten years the New York Air National Guard crews have conducted 1,000 missions to the South Pole and back, moving 25 million pounds of cargo as the station has been rebuilt. During the season about 120 wing members are "on the ice" at any one time, flying and maintaining the aircraft. The wing's members work 12 hour days for six days each week and then work a half day on Sunday, said Lt. Col.George Alston, Chiefof Aircrew Training for the 109th. Wing members rotate through McMurdo. The minimum tour is three weeks at the station. The time involved in getting there means wing members are away from home for four weeks while supporting the missions. All wing members who go to the Antarctic receive specialized survival training. The maintenance crews normally attain a 95 percent reliability status for the aircraft, allowing the flight crews to carry as much cargo as possible to remote Antarctic outposts. The wing accumulates roughly 4,000 hours of flying time in the 16 week season; almost as much as most units fly in a year. This year the unit will test a special radar system designed to detect crevasses in the ice, Alston said. An undetected crevasse could result in a multi-million dollar aircraft being rendered inoperable and crew injuries or death, Alston explained. In the past the wing relied on satellite photos to detect crevasses in potential landing areas. This meant scientists seeking to work in a specific area had to put in a request almost a year in advance in order for the wing to obtain the satellite images necessary, Alston explained. This prototype system, which is small enough to fit in the paratroop door of a C-130 will allow the wing's operators to get current imagery of a potential landing area and make them more responsive to scientists need to get into and out of an area, Alston said. Operation Deep Freeze, overseen by the 13th Air Force at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, provides logistical and operational support to the U.S. Antarctic Program and the National Science Foundation. Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica, led by 13th Air Force coordinates strategic intertheater airlift, tactical deep field support, aeromedical evacuation support, search and rescue response, sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo handling and transportation requirements. Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, is the staging point for deployment to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, a key research and operations facility for the U.S. Antarctic Program. Operation Deep Freeze is unlike any other U.S. military operation. Some consider it possibly the military's most difficult peacetime mission due to the harsh Antarctic environment. The U.S. military is uniquely equipped and trained to operate in such an austere environment and has provided support to the U.S. Antarctic Program since 1955. Active-duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel from the Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard work together as part of the joint task force. This team continues the tradition of U.S. military support to the U.S. Antarctic Program and demonstrates the United States' commitment to a stable Pacific region. Along with the LC-130 aircraft from the New York Air National Guard, airlift for Operation Deep Freeze involves active-duty and Reserve C-17 Globemaster III support from McChord Air Force Base, Washington. Sealift support consists of one U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker on standby in Seattle; one Military Sealift Command tanker; one Military Sealift Command-chartered dry cargo ship; and U.S. Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One from Williamsburg, Va. Cutline: 109th On Ice: At the South Pole Station Antarctica, a flight engineer from the 109th Airlift Wing waits for passengers before heading north to McMurdo Station. The 109th Airlift Wing supports the National Science Foundation work in Antarctica with Operation DEEP FREEZE. Photo Courtesy New York Air National Guard


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