RESOLUTE, Nunavut, Canada – Members of the 105th Airlift Wing, Stewart Air National Guard Base, Newburgh, New York, supported exercise Guerrier Nordique from Feb. 22 to March 23 in the harsh High Arctic of Northern Canada.
Guerrier Nordique is an annual joint training exercise to test military operational capabilities in the extreme cold of the High Arctic of Northern Canada. Temperatures in this region are known to drop as low as 50 degrees below zero with the wind chill.
The units participating in the exercise included the 109th Airlift Wing, Stratton Air National Guard base in Scotia, New York, the Vermont Army National Guard and the Canadian Armed Forces.
For the exercise, the 105th provided tactical airlift support, transporting Soldiers and equipment between the 2nd Canadian Division’s area of responsibility and Resolute Bay on a C-17 Globemaster III. The 105th moved 285 passengers and over 180,000 pounds of cargo throughout 23 flights.
“This is something we don’t normally do, so it’s challenging and requires a lot of collaboration both internally and with external forces,” said Maj. Rodrigo Nagle, a pilot assigned to the 105th Airlift Wing.
Resolute Bay Airport is an essential hub for aircraft traveling across the Canadian Arctic but is not equipped with radar. That issue, combined with a runway of frozen gravel and ice, made operating the C-17 challenging. However, the experienced pilots of the 105th were ready for the challenge.
“We flew 2,000 miles. We landed on an austere field, which is something most cargo planes don’t do. We unloaded and loaded cargo and people and flew another 2,000 miles back basically all on our own,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Townsend, a pilot assigned to the 105th Airlift Wing. “When you think about the strategic value that demonstrates to our potential adversaries that the C-17 can operate on its own in extreme conditions without support on the ground.”
Loadmasters of the C-17 also faced unforeseen obstacles while loading cargo in the freezing temperatures, including cold-induced computer malfunctions, forcing aircraft weight and balance calculations to be done by hand, and chunks of ice and snow that had to be chipped off cargo pallets to fit them into the aircraft’s restraint rails.
“The cargo upload in such extremely cold conditions presented some unique challenges for us,” said Master Sgt. James Segreti, a loadmaster from the 105th Airlift Wing. “We were able to overcome these challenges and get the aircraft safely loaded by adapting our standard operating procedures to tackle the situation and conditions at hand.”
The 105th Airlift Wing plans to participate in future Guerrier Nordique exercises and stretch its capabilities to operate in new environments.
“Our pilots and loadmasters walk away from this exercise with a greater knowledge and understanding of how to jointly integrate with our international partners in the Arctic environment,” said Lt. Col. Emile Sendral, commander, 105th Operations Support Squadron. “And hopefully, our Canadian allies and other nations with a vested interest in the region walk away knowing that the New York Air National Guard has been and continues to be an experienced and proud supporter of Arctic operations.”