NY National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing finishes 2019-2020 Antarctic research support season
STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, SCOTIA, N.Y. (03/09/2020) (readMedia)-- The New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing wrapped up its 32nd season of support for American research in Antarctica as Airmen and aircraft began returning home from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, on February 28.
From October through February, five LC-130s and 328 Airmen provided support to the United States Antarctic research efforts, as part of Operation Deep Freeze, the military's support to the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Program.
The unit completed more than 200 missions within Antarctica by flying 2,097 passengers to include distinguished visitors, researchers and support staff, 2,986,036 pounds of cargo and more than 640,000 pounds of fuel to research stations across the continent.
Col. Cliff Souza, an LC-130 pilot and the commander of the 109th Airlift Wing's 139th Operations Group said the wing succeeded in everything they had to do.
The wing's Airmen accomplished all of their tasked missions, despite being restricted to using only five LC-130s and flying no more than 1,500 hours, he said.
"We worked closely with Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica the Antarctic Support Contractor and the National Science Foundation to optimize LC-130 flight hours and missions to ensure that scientists and their supplies got where they needed to be when they needed to be there," Souza said.
Col. Michele Kilgore, 109th Airlift Wing commander, deployed as 13th Air Expeditionary Group Commander. This entailed over-seeing the daily flights flown around the continent and operational flow of the 109th's operations.
"This was the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty and the 32nd year that the 109th Airlift Wing has supported this Antarctic mission. We take a lot of pride in continuing our tradition of innovation and readiness operating in the harshest conditions on Earth, all while safely meeting mission requirements and exceeding expectations." Kilgore said.
Among the VIPs the 109th Airmen flew this year was General Joseph Lengyel, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Operation Deep Freeze, the military component of the U.S. Antarctic Program, is managed by the National Science Foundation. The unique capabilities of the ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft make it the only one of its kind in the U.S. military, able to land on snow and ice.
The LC-130 is the largest ski-equipped aircraft in the world which can land on ice and snow.
The "Skibirds" of the 109th Airlift Wing support science missions in Antarctica and Greenland operating from Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, N.Y.
Currently the 109th has 65 Airmen and two LC-130s participating in exercises Arctic Edge and Arctic Eagle 2020 in Alaska.