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NEWS | Dec. 29, 2010

National Guard support to Operation Deep Freeze

By Courtesy Story

The National Guard is part of the joint team that supports Operation Deep Freeze, the annual deployment of about 1,200 people to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, from September through February to support National Science Foundation research there.

National Guard support includes the New York Air National Guard’s specially equipped LC-130 “Ski Bird” Hercules military transport aircraft. The LC-130 is a variant of the regular C-130 Hercules with skis for landing gear.

National Science Foundation research subjects in Antarctica include astronomy, biology and physics.

Air Force Master Sgt. Lee Hoover went to Christchurch, New Zealand – staging point for Antarctica missions – over the Christmas holiday to observe the mission firsthand.

In an illustration of the challenges of the mission, Hoover’s first flight to McMurdo was turned around because weather made it too difficult to land in Antarctica.

He writes:

I've been wanting to get to Antarctica for years. Ever since I saw a story on the LC-130 and its role in Operation Deep Freeze I have told myself one thing: I have to get on one of those flights.

Now I'll have my chance.

Over the next week I'll be up close and personal with Operation Deep Freeze, meeting the Airmen, Sailors, and Civilian contractors who make this support mission happen.

My goal is to bring that mission to you, to highlight what the Total Air Force (Active, Guard, and Reserve), the Navy and other Defense Department entities do to support the National Science Foundation's year-round research in Antarctica.

On my way down south, I had to stop in Christchurch, New Zealand.

One of the first things I've learned is that a key part of the operation takes place here. Christchurch likes to bill itself as the gateway to Antarctica, and in a way it is.

Every person heading south to support the National Science Foundation comes through here to get their cold-weather gear, rest up a bit, out-process and hop on an C-17 flight to McMurdo Air Station.

Christchurch is also a maintenance hub of sorts for the LC-130, the one-of-a-kind ski-equipped aircraft that is operated by the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard.

Today I had a chance to talk to a number of maintainers that are here in Christchurch.

They take care of all the heavy maintenance that can't be done on the ice.



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