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Operation Deep Freeze main season underway

by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo
Air Force Print News

12/4/2007 - McMURDO STATION, Antarctica (AFPN) -- Active duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., and the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing, combined efforts to support the 13th Air Force-led Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica, Operation Deep Freeze.

The main season, which opened Sept. 28, is the main science research season for the National Science Foundation in Antarctica. The population of McMurdo Station triples in size and it becomes a hive of activity.

The Air Force's role is to provide logistical support to the National Science Foundation via strategic and tactical airlift. C-17 Globemaster IIIs fly from Christchurch, New Zealand, to McMurdo Station, Anarctica, and LC-130 Hercules fly from the station to the outlying camps and the South Pole.

"We provide strategic airlift and tactical airlift for the National Science Foundation," said Lt. Col. Jim McGann, the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander. "In saying that, we bring cargo and people down there in a time-critical nature to get them onto the ice to do the required science and everything else they need to do in a short time," he said.

Once the C-17s bring in their large loads of equipment and people, the loads are broken down into smaller loads for the LC-130s.

"The LC-130s provide access to the deeper recesses of the continent," said Mike Scheuermann, the National Science Foundation representative in Antarctica. "We couldn't begin to do the research that we do without the LC-130s," he said.

The main research season for Antarctica is only about four months long. The NSF relies on the Air Force to get equipment and people in and out of Antarctica as efficiently as possible, minimizing the impact on the station and the continent and getting their research done in a timely manner. 

Prior to the Air Force taking over the mission, If you had aircraft availability of 70 percent, that was a good target, Mr. Sheuermann said.

"The 109th (AW) with their LC-130s were at 97 percent aircraft availability last year. Just phenomenal, almost unheard of in my time," Mr. Sheuermann said.  

It is critical that the C-17s and LC-130s get equipment, cargo and people where they need to be and back, Col. McGann said.

"When you start talking about traversing the large distances associated with Antarctica -- all provided by the military -- it has been an outstanding service," said Mr. Sheuermann. "We couldn't do it with out them."

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