by Tech. Sgt. Catharine Schmidt
New York National Guard
10/19/2015 - STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, SCOTIA, N.Y. -- The
takeoff of the New York Air National Guard's LC-130 ski-equipped
aircraft here Oct. 16 marks the official start of the 109th Airlift
Wing's 28th season of support to science research at the South Pole.
By the end of the month, Airmen and aircraft with the 109th Airlift Wing
are expected to be in place at McMurdo Station, Antarctica,
participating in Operation Deep Freeze, the military component of the
U.S. Antarctic Program, managed by the National Science Foundation.
New York Air National Guard Lt. Col. Seth Barrows was part of the first
aircrew to leave and will be the 139th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron
deployed commander upon arrival. Barrows said as the deployed commander
he must ensure planes, people and weather are all good to ensure a safe,
"The weather is the biggest challenge so you watch that weather very
closely, and from there you do your mission," said Lt. Col. Christian
Sander, 109th Operations Group commander.
Throughout the season, which runs through February, a total of seven
LC-130 ski-equipped aircraft and about 500 Airmen are expected to
deploy, with 330 missions planned. About 120 Airmen will be deployed on
the ice at any one time.
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 primary mission of the 109th AW is to provide airlift within
Antarctica, flying to various remote locations from McMurdo Station.
Crews will transport scientists, support, fuel, supplies, medical
supplies and more throughout the season.
This year, the IcePod missions are expected to increase from the
previous season. The IcePod is an externally mounted electronics pod
that provides an integrated ice imaging system that measures in detail
both the ice surface and the ice bed.
"This season is seeing the maturation of the Common Science Support Pod
with 18 IcePod missions planned compared to three missions last season,"
said Lt. Col. Blair Herdrick, 139th Airlift Squadron's Antarctic
Operations chief. "IcePod is a project by Lamont-Doherty Earth
Observatory (LDEO) at Columbia University in New York. The IcePod
project utilizes the Common Science Support Pod to house a variety of
instruments to measure changes in the Antarctic ice sheet."
The IcePod missions were flown for the first time in Antarctica last
season, and were deemed one of the biggest successes of the year.
The 109th AW has been supporting the NSF's South Pole research since
1988. Since 1999, the unit has been the sole provider of this type of
airlift to the NSF and U.S. Antarctic research efforts.