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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | July 6, 2011

National Guard is piece of Arctic puzzle

By Tech. Sgt. John Orrell National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON - The National Guard, working through the Defense Department with multinational forces, is promoting a balanced approach to improve human and environmental security in the Arctic region, Pentagon officials said in a May report to Congress here.

The report on Arctic Operations and the Northwest Passage highlighted strategic national security objectives and needed mission capabilities to perform ongoing training operations in the Arctic region.

The Army National Guard, working with the Army’s service-specific Arctic capabilities, has an infantry brigade and an aviation unit at Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and a Cold Weather Training and Test Center at Fort Greely, all located in Alaska.

The brigade and aviation unit provide training and readiness in support of U.S. Pacific Command’s theater campaign plan, missile defense, air support operations and emergency medical care.

To help maintain the Defense Department’s cold weather operational capabilities, the Air National Guard’s annual participation in training such as Operation ARCTIC CARE exercises the readiness of the Air Guard.

The Air Guard also maintains some Air Force Arctic aviation capability at two of their facilities.

The first is Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. This facility operates the HC-130 Hercules, an extended range cargo plane intended for search and rescue, and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, used to transport rescuers.

Both aircraft are capable of operating in Arctic conditions, and the Air National Guard aircraft maintain a 24-hour alert and annually participate in Arctic search and rescue exercises with joint and international partners.

The second facility is located at Stratton Air National Guard Base in New York, the home of the 109th Airlift Wing, which has a mission that combines both scientific and military objectives.

The 109th operates the LC-130 Hercules, a specially designed ski-equipped version of the C-130 Hercules used to support the National Science Foundation.

The LC-130s can operate from prepared and unprepared snow fields, floating ice sheets, glaciers and traditional paved runways.

Each year, about seven LC-130s deploy from October to February to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as part of Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica under Operation DEEP FREEZE.

Additionally, the Air National Guard operates three LC-130s in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, from April to August each year to support U.S. and European science camps on the Greenland Ice Cap.

The Air Guard also provides air refueling capabilities from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.