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NY Air Guard supports Danish forces in Greenland training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jamie Spaulding,
  • New York National Guard

KASSERLUSSEQUA, Greenland – Thirty-four, New York National Guard Airmen from the 109th Airlift Wing and the 106th Rescue Wing teamed up with Denmark’s Joint Arctic Command during a search and rescue exercise in Greenland from Nov. 3 -9.

The 109th Airlift Wing, based at Stratton Air National Guard Base outside Schenectady, New York, deployed one LC-130 ski-equipped aircraft and 17 personnel, while the 106th Rescue Wing, based at Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach on Long Island, deployed an HC-130J search and rescue aircraft along with 17 personnel.

The 109th Airlift Wing, which flies the largest aircraft in the world equipped to land on snow or ice, operates regularly in Greenland, resupplying science facilities from Greenland’s Kangerlussuauq International Airport.

The search and rescue exercise, known as Arctic Light, included elements from the Royal Danish Air Force, the Danish Special Operations Command, and Denmark’s Joint Rescue Coordination Center, responsible for Greenland search and rescue operations.

Greenland is a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Demark, so the Danish military is responsible for defending the island.

The exercise focused on the ability to activate, deploy and redeploy capabilities within the Arctic, according to Maj. Christopher Husher, the 109th’s lead exercise planner.

As units arrived in Greenland, they received tasks from the Joint Arctic Command to aid in the search and rescue mission.

The training scenario called for Danish personnel to conduct ground operations following a tsunami that hit Qoornoq, located on Greenland’s northeastern coast.

The mission of the New York Air National Guard contingent was to drop supplies to the Danish troops on the ground, Husher said.

“We were essential to operations for this exercise,” Husher said. “We conducted three airdrops between the 109th and the 106th, consisting of survivability rations, equipment, and tactical gear. We even dropped a boat for Danish search and rescue personnel.”

His plane dropped an inflatable boat, properly known as a combat rubber raiding craft, or a CRCC for short, along with scuba equipment and rations, said Tech. Sgt. Logan Brennan, a loadmaster with the 109th Airlift Wing.

Brennan explained that the boat was dropped on an expendable combat platform, a fancy term for a pallet built for one-time use when dropping non-standard loads.

“The significance of the drops was that we were able to showcase an underutilized skillset for us as loadmasters and a capability for the 109th as a whole,” Brennan said.

“The bundles we dropped, to include the CRCC, are things we are trained to handle and rig but don’t necessarily get the opportunity to work with regularly,” he added.

Danish personnel operated the drop zones, conducted surveys, and searched for “survivors” of the tsunami.

“The hardest part about conducting multinational exercises is working through the communication barrier,” Husher explained.

“Something as simple as sending a drop zone survey or reading through an air-tasking order becomes a huge task when electronic systems don’t talk to each other,” he said.

“Exercising this capability and continuing to operate in a joint environment with our allies will not only enhance our ability to work together but will foster better working relationships for the future,” Husher added.

Since 1975, the 109th Airlift Wing has operated in the Arctic, cooperating with entities like the National Science Foundation and strategic partners like Canada and Denmark.

As the geopolitical landscape changes and operations in the region become more frequent, concerns about interoperability between partners in support of mission effectiveness and safety come into sharper focus, Husher said.

In June 2019, the Department Of Defense updated its Arctic strategy to address an evolving Arctic security environment as possibilities for international competition in the region begin to rise as Arctic seas become more navigable due to climate change.

The DOD established three pillars to support its desired Arctic end state: build Arctic awareness, enhance Arctic operations, and strengthen the rules-based order in the Arctic, Husher said.

“Arctic Light contributes directly to the DOD’s vision for the region,” Husher explained.

“Whether it be a downed aircraft over the icecap, a sinking ship in the fjord, or some sort of international conflict, the capabilities and techniques that are used in Arctic Light will be integral to addressing whatever circumstances that we or our allies encounter in the Arctic.”

“Opportunities like this build trust and operational familiarity between partners,’ he said.