Thursday, February 04, 2010

Airmen support Operation Deep Freeze

Exhaust vapors form around a C-17 Globemaster III after engine start-up during an Operation Deep Freeze mission. The C-17 and 31 Airmen from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., conducted the annual winter fly-in augmentation of scientists, support staff, food and equipment for the U.S. Antarctic program at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

by Tech. Sgt. Aries D. Early, 13th Air Force Public Affairs

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AFNS) -- More than halfway through the 2009-2010 winter season, U.S. servicemembers have made many major contributions in support of the National Scientific Foundation's efforts in Antarctica.

The members support Operation Deep Freeze, which is a 13th Air Force-led Joint Task Force responsible for the coordination of strategic airlift, field support airlift, emergency response and aeromedical evacuation.

They also are tasked with sealift duties, seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo handling and other transportation related requirements conducted in Antarctica. All of this is done in what is considered by many to be one of the most difficult peacetime duty assignments. This is mainly because of the harsh environment. Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, highest and most inhospitable continent on the globe.

"(We're) participating in a major change in airfield operations at McMurdo Station," said Col. Paul Sheppard, the Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica deputy commander.

In previous years, LC-130 Hercules operations were located at an airfield known as Williams Field Skiway and C-17 Globemaster III operations were at Pegasus Field Runway from Dec. 1 until the season's end. This year, all operations were consolidated at Pegasus Field.

"A new skiway was build at Pegasus for the LC-130 fleet and the consolidation of aircraft has been a success," the colonel said.

"Since acquiring the mission in 1998, we have never lost any of our military members or aircraft. This is a very dangerous environment, we know that, and we act accordingly."

So far, 53 C-17 missions have been flown between Christchurch, New Zealand, and McMurdo Station, Antarctica, transporting 2,700 passengers and more than 3.5 million pounds of cargo. Ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft have flown 292 missions ferrying nearly 2,000 passengers and more than 8.1 million total cargo pounds from McMurdo Station to the South Pole and other research posts throughout Antarctica.