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NEWS | May 15, 2024

New York Air Guard Transports Special Operations Forces

By Tech. Sgt. Madison Scaringe, 109th Airlift Wing

STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. - Forty-six Airmen from the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing participated in Arctic Edge 24, a U.S. Northern Command-led homeland defense exercise demonstrating the military’s capabilities in extreme cold.

The event demonstrated combined force readiness and the U.S. military’s commitment to security interests in the Arctic region.

During AE24, more than 400 joint and allied Special Operator Forces honed their skills in extreme cold, focusing on specialties like long-range fires and movements, special reconnaissance, rapid resupply, personnel recovery, and medical care in the challenging Arctic environment.

The 109th conducts annual missions to Greenland and Antarctica, making them suitable partners to bring their Arctic expertise to Alaska.

Based out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, the 109th flew 31 sorties, transporting over 95,000 pounds of cargo and 61 passengers Feb. 23 to March 11.

“Our Airmen displayed unmatched dedication, expertise, and resilience in the face of extreme conditions,” said Col. Rob Donaldson, commander of the 109th Airlift Wing. “Their participation not only showcased the unique capabilities of the 109th Airlift Wing and our mission-ready Airmen but also underscored the critical role Air National Guard units play in enhancing joint force readiness.”

The cargo transported by the 109th throughout the exercise supplied special forces groups with equipment to train in Kotzebue, Utqiagvik, Kodiak and Fairbanks.

On March 9, high in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska’s north shore, the 109th air-dropped a supply package to East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare Operator (SEALs) and Norwegian Naval Special Operations commandos as part of a first-ever integration of SOF personnel, aircraft and snowmobiles in conjunction with a submarine that surfaced so far into the Arctic Circle.

Special operations MH-47G Chinook helicopters transported 15 SOF personnel to a secure zone on the ice, identified by the submarine, where four snowmobiles were unloaded.

The team then set up a command-and-control tent and coordinated the air-drop of a critical package from the 109th’s C-130 Hercules. The package was retrieved and navigated to the waiting USS Hampton (SSN 767).

Just moments before, the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine had surfaced through the thick ice sheet.

“This historic integration of Special Operations Forces personnel, aircraft, snowmobiles and a surfaced submarine represents a remarkable milestone in Arctic operations, showcasing the extraordinary capabilities and readiness of our combined force,” Donaldson said.

Notable among the airlifted equipment was an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System operated by Marines from Fox Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.

The vehicle was transported to Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks as part of a HIMARS Rapid Infiltration.

The training involved offloading the HIMARS from the 109th’s C-130, along with two C130J Hercules, stopping at a resupply checkpoint and concluding with a live-fire demonstration showcasing the Marine Forces Reserve’s ability to rapidly deploy and deter threats in harsh Arctic conditions.

Unforgiving Arctic weather and aircraft mechanical issues proved to be hurdles for the 109th during the exercise.

“Mother nature is always the biggest challenge and potential hazard in these types of environments,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Sala, the 109th deployed commander.

“We had maintenance issues with a few different types of leaks, as well as a tire change,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Hanna, the 109th maintenance group senior enlisted leader. “When the aircraft challenged us, this team continually worked together as multi-capable Airmen to ensure missions were not missed.”

Arctic Edge 24 involved participation from multiple nations, including special forces from the United States, Norway, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

This collaborative training emphasized collective efforts to secure the Arctic region and enhance military capabilities in extreme environments.



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