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NY National Guard Airmen begin returning from Antarctic mission

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jocelyn Tuller,
  • New York National Guard

SCOTIA, NEW YORK – Seventy-three Airmen and three LC-130 "Skibirds" assigned to the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing are expected to begin returning from Antarctica to Stratton Air National Guard Base outside Schenectady, New York Feb 10-13.

This marks the 34th season the 109th Airlift Wing has supported Antarctic research efforts flying the largest ski-equipped aircraft in the world,

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

The Airmen went through a quarantine period in New Zealand in the fall of 2021 before continuing to Antarctica to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Airmen and aircraft were based out of McMurdo Station, Antarctica. McMurdo Station is a United States Antarctic research station on the south tip of Ross Island in Antarctica and the largest base in Antarctica.

"Overall, Operation Deep Freeze this year was a success considering substantial mission limitations and rapidly evolving COVID constraints which made the routine deployment exponentially complex," said Maj. Shay Price, the 109th Airlift Wing's chief of Antarctic operations.

"Airmen remained flexible and adapted to real-time changes, exceeding the accomplishment," Shay added.

The 109th Airmen completed 40 missions, transporting 204 passengers and 357,926 pounds of critical cargo to research stations located across Antarctica.

The wing Airmen flew 24 missions between bases on the continent.

Sixteen missions were flown between Christchurch, New Zealand and Antarctica. These included four medical evacuation missions.

"I am proud of the work we do each year to support the United States Antarctic Program and the hard work put in by all of our maintenance, aircrew and support staff to make each season a success," said Col. Robert Donaldson, the vice commander of the 109th Airlift Wing.

"Operating in extreme weather is a difficult task. Our 109th Airlift Wing Airmen are constantly going above and beyond to complete the mission most efficiently and safely," Donaldson said.

The LC-130's flown by the 109th Airlift Wing can land on snow and ice while accommodating larger loads than other ski-equipped aircraft flown on the continent.

During these missions, LC-130s were able to land at McMurdo Station when the snow and ice runway was not suitable for wheeled aircraft. This allowed for 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.