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NY Air Guard helps resupply northernmost Canadian outpost

A C-130 flown by Airmen from the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing takes off from Canadian Forces Station Alert on Ellsmere Island, Nunavut, after dropping off supplies on Sept. 30, 2019. The Air Guard crew assisted members of the Royal Canadian Air Force's  8 Wing in transporting supplies from Thule Air Base, Greenland to Canadian Forces Station Alert, Nunavut. (Courtesy Photo)

A C-130 flown by Airmen from the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing takes off from Canadian Forces Station Alert on Ellsmere Island, Nunavut, after dropping off supplies on Sept. 30, 2019. The Air Guard crew assisted members of the Royal Canadian Air Force's 8 Wing in transporting supplies from Thule Air Base, Greenland to Canadian Forces Station Alert, Nunavut. (Courtesy Photo)

STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Scotia, N.Y. -- The New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing delivered more than 100,000 pounds of cargo to the most northern permanently inhabited place in the world in a joint operation with the Canadian Armed Forces.

Twenty airmen from the 109th, based at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, N.Y., flew seven missions to Canadian Forces Station Alert Sept. 26 to Oct. 4.

This twice-a-year resupply mission is known as Operation Boxtop and takes place in the spring and fall.

“The U.S. Air Force’s New York Air National Guard is uniquely qualified to help us apply practical lessons from decades of successful Antarctic operations to the Arctic environment,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Vaughan, the deputy commander for the Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command Region.

The station, on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, is 490 miles south of the North Pole and the year-round home to about 55 Canadian Forces military and civilian personnel.

Canadian Forces Station Alert, built in 1956, maintains signals intelligence facilities to support Canadian military operations, hosts researchers for Environment and Climate Change Canada, and projects Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.

The wing, which flies the largest ski-equipped aircraft in the world, teamed up with the Canadian Armed Force’s 8 Wing, based in Trenton, Ontario, to conduct the mission. The 8 Wing is the higher headquarters for the Alert station.

The Canadian Forces funded the 109th’s participation in the resupply mission as part of broader binational Arctic Force Package initiatives, according to Vaughan.

“Beyond operating the amazing LC-130 aircraft, the men and women of the 109th Airlift Wing are polar execution experts,” Vaughan said.

The mission profile called for one C-130 from the 109th to fly to Thule Air Base in Greenland, the northernmost installation operation by the U.S. military, and then fly cargo from there to Alert.

The 109th personnel included two full crews of six Airmen, for a total of twelve, and eight maintenance personnel.

The 109th Airlift Wing carried bulk cargo that allowed the Canadian Armed Forces, which employed a C-130J and C-17 cargo plane, to focus on bringing fuel for generators and heating, said New York Air National Guard Maj. Jacob Papp, an aircraft commander.

The three aircraft flew missions around the clock to supply the Alert outpost.

The conditions in the Arctic this time of year can be less than ideal, Papp said. The crews experience freezing fog, low visibility and high winds, making approaches and landing difficult at times.

Despite the weather, the 109th Airlift Wing crews were able to complete 37.4 hours of flying for the operation.

“It was great to get out there and use the skills that we train for all the time, to land on a really short strip given the conditions and unimproved surface,” Papp said. “We look forward to working with them (Canadian Forces) again.”

The 109th Airlift Wing has a long history of operating in the Arctic in support of American and Canadian operations. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the 109th Airlift Wing participated in Operation NUNALIVUT, an annual Arctic operations exercise.

“Operating in the polar regions has been a 109th Airlift Wing core competency for the better part of 50 years, so assisting in this year’s Operation Boxtop is most definitely in the 109th wheelhouse,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy LaBarge, commander of the New York Air National Guard.

“As we continue to demonstrate our collective abilities and competencies in the polar regions, I believe this effort by the 109th tangibly illustrates our ability to operate and project power in the High North,” La Barge said.

This resupply mission was conducted relatively late in the fall to help prove that science, logistics and other objectives in the Arctic can be met, according to Vaughan.

“This late-season resupply of Canadian Forces Station Alert, the most northern military outpost on Earth, further demonstrates U.S.-Canadian resolve in protecting the Arctic environment,” Vaughan said.

The Canadian NORAD Region works with the Continental United States NORAD Region to provide airspace surveillance and control for both countries.

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