JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Alaska Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Benjamen Hancox, a 176th Logistics Readiness Squadron air transportation craftsman, served as one of five Alaska Guardsmen who helped execute Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica.
Hancox has been a member of the 176th Wing since 2014 and became a qualified joint inspector in 2022. Joint inspectors ensure the airworthiness of all cargo, including pallets, vehicles and hazardous material flying aboard Air Force aircraft, and process passengers.
During Operation Deep Freeze, the members of the 176th Wing were the sole hazardous material inspectors on the operation. After processing hazardous material according to Air Force regulations, Hancox and two other joint inspectors inspected 226,350 pounds of cargo on 32 missions.
The 176th LRS air transportation craftsmen assigned to Operation Deep Freeze were there to inspect all outbound cargo leaving Mcmurdo Station to ensure it was safe and loaded effectively. This cargo was headed for two other National Science Foundation research stations in Antarctica, South Pole Station and WAIS Divide.
The cargo supplied to these austere stations included food, gear and research supplies for the station’s inhabitants. The 109th Airlift Wing, New York National Guard, provided the LC-130 Hercules to support the mission deep in Antarctica. The “Skibird” is a specially equipped C-130 built for polar operations.
Hancox has participated in multiple operations, including Operation Freedom Sentinel and Operation Inherent Resolve, and now Operation Deep Freeze.
“Learning about the complexity of providing rapid mobility of cargo and passengers in the world’s most austere environment was incredibly interesting,” he said. “It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”