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From Over the Top, to Under the Bottom

  • Published
  • By Mr. Steven Conklin
  • 142nd Wing

PORTLAND, OR -- Members of the 142nd Wing got the chance to escape the Pacific Northwest winter this year with a trip to Antarctica. December to March is actually summertime for the continent due to its location on the bottom of the globe; but this was no tropical vacation.

“It was cold!” said Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Reynolds, the weapons safety manager for the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Wing. 

Indeed, it was, which is why the Department of Defense aptly refers to this mission as Operation Deep Freeze. According to the DOD, this operation is a joint military mission to resupply the nation's Antarctic stations in support of the National Science Foundation, the lead agency for the U.S. Antarctic Program. 

During his time in Antarctica, Reynolds was the Occupational Safety servicemember at McMurdo Station, and was responsible for ensuring the safety of roughly 80 military personnel there. When he wasn’t conducting facility inspections, or doing spot inspections on workers and equipment, he would often be out collecting photos of the local wildlife.

“I got to see two different types of penguins…I’d have to say the smaller Adelie were my favorite ones as I saw more of them, and in action, as opposed to the one Emperor I saw who was just standing there molting his feathers.”

Operation Deep Freeze involves U.S. Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard servicemembers providing operational and logistical support of the National Science Foundation’s research activities in Antarctica. Including Reynolds, seven total 142nd Wing Airmen supported the operation this year. Five fire fighters from the 142nd Civil Engineer Squadron and one Airman with the 142nd Logistics Readiness Squadron also supported the mission. 

In such an austere environment, protecting the DOD’s most valuable asset, its people, is key. That’s why Reynold’s was a great fit for the job. During his tenure at the station, Reynolds capitalized on his 30 plus years of military experience to keep accidents at a minimum.

“I’d say my success at McMurdo was that I only had one military member mishap the whole time I was down there.”

While the North Pole is experiencing extended night this time of year, the South Pole is experiencing what could be considered the polar opposite. 

“One fascinating note, I was on the ice from 10 December to 14 January and during that time, the sun never set. In fact, the next sunset was at 11:12 a.m. on 21 February!”

The sun does set in the Pacific Northwest though, and while scientists may never fully discover its malfunction at the poles, Reynolds can sleep peacefully back home knowing that he left McMurdo a safer place.