By Staff Sgt. Richard Murphy
Iowa Air National Guard
MCMURDO STATION, Antarctica (12/3/12) - As the cool winter air begins to roll into Sioux City this season, Capt. William Vit, an Air National Guard chaplain with the 185th Air Refueling Wing, Sioux City, Iowa, and a priest for the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City, Iowa, is feeling a much colder breeze.
Vit was selected to deploy to McMurdo Station in Antarctica this year with the 109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard, in support of Operation Deep Freeze (ODF). Vit provides ministry services to both military and civilian personnel conducting their mission in the world's coldest continent. He has been in Antarctica since October of this year.
Vit says, "I enjoy the diversity of the people who are here. From military to scientists and everything in-between, I am able to meet a wide variety of people. As chaplains, we are called to be visible reminders of the holy spirit both in the chapel and out and are always available to the community in any way we can be of service."
In addition to serving the population at the McMurdo Station, the chaplain also serves a group of about 160 people currently stationed at Geographic South Pole.
Chaplain Vit says the most difficult part of this deployment is dealing with the harsh environment. "Equipment doesn't always work like it does when everything is warm. I tried to take pictures with my digital camera at the South Pole, but with wind chills of 50 below zero, the electronics don't even work. At the South Pole when we finally found a well-insulated camera that functioned in the cold, it was still hard to take the picture as the flash button is not designed to accommodate a shivering person with two layers of gloves."
While coping with the extreme temperatures in the arctic, Vit says he enjoys working with researchers and has found a common interest: the desire to seek the truth. "While our fields of study may be vastly different, our desires and motivations are strikingly similar. As a chaplain, I have enjoyed hearing about all of this work and sharing my appreciation for their research and mission."
Vit is a Catholic priest for the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City, Iowa. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a business degree. He received his Sacrae Theologiae Bacculaureus in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Vit said he was moved by the support received from his home. "I spoke with members from my local church to make sure I could be away for the given time and was actually encouraged by them to participate."
Maj. Steven Peters, the full time chaplain with the 185th, said that Vit's dedication to the Air National Guard and its mission is impressive, especially considering his responsibilities with his parish.
Peters said, "Chaplain Vit is incredibly busy with his position in his parish. Yet, he feels called to military chaplaincy and he has made serving the Air National Guard his priority.”
Capt. Vit will return from this deployment in the coming weeks, when another chaplain will replace him.
"As the new priest takes my place, we are fortunate that he can begin where I end and serve the Lord's people living and working here in Antarctica," Vit said.
This operation is unlike any other U.S. military operation. It is one of the military's most difficult peacetime missions due to the harsh Antarctic environment. Active duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard work together as part of the joint task force.