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NC Air National Guardsmen Provide Support for Operation Deep Freeze

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  • By Staff Sgt Laura Montgomery, 145th Public Affairs
The New York Air National Guard, along with Airmen from other units, annually participate in Operation Deep Freeze by flying in ski-landing gear equipped LC-130 Hercules aircraft to the island and dropping off supplies, cargo, and scientists involved with researching Antarctica’s climate and marine-life.

“It shows how relative our training is in the Air Force as a whole and globally,” said Tech. Sgt. Jesse Huneycutt, small air terminal rigger. “We can face one extreme to the next and still make it happen and for the NC Air National Guard we demonstrate the quality of training needed to complete the mission and what we are capable of.” 

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jesse Huneycutt and Senior Airman Eric Burkhalter, 145th Logistics Readiness Squadron, joined the NY Air National Guard on their annual mission to Antarctica. McMurdo Station, a 61 year-old logistical hub for the National Science Foundation run U.S. Antarctic Program, is located off the coast of Antarctica on Ross Island. The Airmen were eligible to attend Operation Deep Freeze based on specialized training qualifications such as hazardous material inspector, joint inspection, and parachute rigging. 

The first stop for the airmen was Christchurch, New Zealand before arriving in Antarctica to in-process and pick up their cold weather gear and equipment. When they arrived at Ross Island it was 40 below zero. Huneycutt and Burkhalter endured 12-hour shifts in freezing weather, checking cargo, and transporting civilian scientists.

“It was interesting working in those conditions with the civilians and their equipment, in the wind and the cold. The job itself was easy, it’s what we’re always trained for, however, the environment was much different,” said Huneycutt in regards to his experience in Antarctica.

The NY Air National Guard supports an integrated ice-imaging system, which is a modular data collection and acquisitions pod for the LC-130 Hercules aircraft. This system requires unique rigging onto the aircraft. The system is needed for scientists to observe if the polar ice sheets and glaciers are increasingly degrading in mass. Satellites can generally track the thinning ice however, the rate at which the ice is thinning has increased, so much so, that the only way to effectively track the accelerated thinning is by utilizing the ice-imaging system which measures ice surface and ice bed in detail. 

The NC Air National Guard continues to support global missions like Operation Deep Freeze as their transition from the C-130 Hercules to C-17 Globemaster III aircraft progresses; truly showcasing the unit’s effectiveness and versatility.