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NY Air Guard, Brazil partner on Antarctic flying

By Master Sgt. Jaclyn Lyons | New York National Guard | Oct. 2, 2019

STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. — Six Airmen from the 109th Airlift Wing traveled to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil Sept. 14-21 as part of the New York National Guard's new state partnership with the Brazilian armed forces.

The pilots and maintenance personnel visited their counterparts in the Brazilian Air Force's 1st Squadron of the 1st Transport Group at Galeao Air Base in Rio and talked about Antarctic flying operations.

Just as the 109th Airlift Wing specializes in supporting American science operations in Antarctica, the Airmen of Brazil's 1st Squadron support the Brazilian research station in Antarctica's South Shetland Islands.

The islands are on the opposite side of the continent from McMurdo Station, the main U.S. base and home station for the 109th in Antarctica.

"We went to do an overview of each other's missions; finding the similarities and differences in the rules and regulations that govern us and to share flying techniques in the harsh Antarctic environment," said Master Sgt. Chris Collins, a flight engineer with the 109th.

The most significant difference between the two units is that the Brazilian Air Force operates between South America and Antarctica. The 109th works mainly within Antarctica, flying to different locations throughout the continent from the base at McMurdo Sound.

But, Collins explained, the missions all deal with the same difficulties forecasting weather and responding to the pressure to complete as many missions as possible.

"Aircrew are the same all over the world. We all experience the same types of pressures to get the job done," said Lt. Col. Seth Barrows, a navigator at the 109th.

"We learned there are differences in our rules and how we operate, but overall we face the same challenges, and it was interesting to find those similarities," he added.

The National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program pairs states with a partner country's armed forces or equivalent to create a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.

The New York National Guard has had a state partnership relationship with the South African National Defense Forces since 2003.

The partnership between the New York National Guard and the Brazilian armed forces began in March 2019 during a ceremony at the U.S.S. Intrepid Museum in New York City.

The Rio meeting was the first exchange between the 109th and the Brazilians. The hope is to collaborate more to keep learning from each other.