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NEWS | Sept. 30, 2021

New York Air Guard's Skibirds wrap up 2021 Greenland mission

By Jaclyn Lyons, New York National Guard

SCOTIA, N.Y. - The New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing wrapped up its annual support to the National Science Foundation in Greenland as Airmen and LC-130 "Skibirds" returned to Stratton Air National Guard Base Sept. 22.

The wing conducted an extended "season," starting in March and running through September, supporting National Science Foundation research sites on the ice cap in Greenland.

The unit supplied 1.3 million pounds of cargo and 32,000 gallons of fuel and delivered 910 passengers. The Airmen flew a total of 678 hours.

The season this year was two months longer than typical. Starting the missions a month early in March allowed the wing to conduct more training at Raven Camp, the Greenland training location the 109th uses to train on snow and ice landings and Arctic operations.

"Going up in March was beneficial to get the initial put in of Raven Camp," said Maj. Jacob Papp, the 109th's chief of Arctic operations.

"This allowed us to keep a cadre of instructors and evaluators current to then provide instruction for the following on flight period," Papp said.

An additional eight-day flight period was added to the end of the season to fulfill a National Science Foundation requirement to retrieve a construction team from Summit Station, the research station near the apex of the Greenland ice sheet.

While more than 30 people usually work there during the summer, only a small crew of five people remain on duty over the winter.

The weather, flying long distances to austere locations and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic raised challenges for the New York National Guard Airmen, according to Papp.

But the unit, the National Science Foundation and the Danish government were able to communicate and formulate a plan to avoid infections.

In 2020, polar research was cut back due to concerns about COVID-19 infections, and the 109th conducted only a few critical missions over three weeks. During the 2020 season, the 109th delivered 30,000 pounds of cargo and nearly 40,000 gallons to Summit Camp.

The summer missions in Greenland are critical for providing Aircrews with experience operating in polar regions.

The 109th also provides critical airlift for National Science Foundation Missions in Antarctica as part of Operation Deep Freeze, the Department of Defense's support for Antarctic research.

The 109th's Airmen will immediately begin preparing to deploy for Operation Deep Freeze in October.

The unique capabilities of the ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft make it the only one of its kind in the U.S. military able to land on snow and ice.



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