STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. – Airmen of the 109th Airlift Wing kicked off their annual support for National Science Foundation research in Greenland on Tuesday, as 80 Airmen and three LC-130 aircraft left Stratton Air National Guard Base for Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
This is the first of six rotations of aircraft and personnel from the Scotia air base to Greenland. About 200 Airmen will participate in the missions that go from April to August.
The Airmen and aircraft of the New York Air National Guard's 109th AW provide support for the National Science Foundation by transporting fuel, cargo and passengers to and from the various camps throughout Greenland.
The wing flies the LC-130 which is a ski-equipped version of the Hercules tactical transport aircraft. The LC-130s are the largest aircraft in the world which can land on ice or snow.
The science foundation supports teams conducting climate research across the Greenland ice cap.
Kangerlussuaq is used as a base because it is home to Greenland's largest airport.
During the 2018 season, the 109th completed 92 missions, transporting 780 passengers and delivering 1.6 million pounds of cargo and nearly 68,000 gallons of fuel to various camps throughout Greenland. The wing also flew 146 training flights during last season.
"We are leading the way in the Arctic with exercises and airlift missions, " said Col. Michelle Kilgore, 109th Airlift Wing commander.
Military leaders say they expect missions in the Arctic to increase and the 109th expects to be part of that, Kilgore said.
"Our Airmen are consistently challenged with a high ops tempo with year-round missions taking us to the north and south poles. I am so proud of the work they do both at home and around the globe. As this Greenland season kicks off I am confident they will exceed all expectations," Kilgore said.
From October to March, the 109th supports Operation Deep Freeze (ODF) in Antarctica, and in the summer months, the unit flies to Greenland to not only continue its support for the National Science Foundation but to also train for ODF.
Training includes flight operations and arctic survival training known as "Barren Land Arctic Survival Training," held at Raven Camp at the end of May.
Approximately 30 students will be attending the week-long course. This training consists of survival conditions, personal protection, sustenance/nutrition, medical, equipment laboratory, signaling and recovery.
"Working in or potentially surviving in the harsh Arctic elements encountered during our Greenland and Antarctica missions make the Barren Land Arctic Survival Training essential to our 109th Airlift Wing members," said Staff Sgt. Shannon Schiller, non-commissioned officer in charge of the wing's Airfield Flight Equipment continuation training program.
"There is a real possibility of having one of our ski-equipped aircraft and its crew become stranded in a barren land situation. If stranded, this training will equip our personnel with the knowledge and survival techniques necessary to survive in those hostile environments," Schiller said.
The wing's presence in Kangerlussuaq also lends itself to a growing relationship between the Airmen and the local community.
"This year the 109th Airmen are also collecting children's shoes, books, bikes, jackets and other gear to donate to the villagers of Kangerlussuaq, who host the mission each year," said 1st Lt. Mathew Begin, 109th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron officer in charge.
"This effort is just another small way to help out our extended family in Greenland. Any time there's a chance to give back and make a difference in someone else's life, take it, no matter how large or small ... I'm proud to be surrounded by a unit dedicated to investing in people and the community, equally to accomplishing the mission," Begin said.