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Cold as Ice
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- A McChord Field-based C-17 Globemaster III lands on the ice at McMurdo Station, Antarctica during Operation Deep Freeze 2009. Twelve Reservists from the 446th Airlift Wing are currently deployed to Christchurch, New Zealand in support of ODF and the National Science Foundation.
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446th AW Reservists have ice in their veins

Posted 10/8/2010   Updated 10/4/2010 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Grant Saylor
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

10/8/2010 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Twelve Reservists from the 446th Airlift Wing here are currently tackling some of the harshest conditions on Earth, braving the cold and ice of Antarctica while deployed in support of Operation Deep Freeze.

This month-long expedition is the first phase of ODF's 2010-11 regular season. It marks an important milestone for these Reservists and Joint Task Force - Support Forces Antarctica, the 13th Air Force support team that commands the mission in support of the National Science Foundation. For the first time, Airmen have utilized night vision goggles to land and take off on the Antarctic ice in complete darkness to resupply McMurdo Station located on Ross Island.

This is vitally important to the ODF mission, making it possible for crews to leave earlier from their staging area in Christchurch, New Zealand, and thereby take advantage of breaks in the weather.

The McChord Field-based C-17 Globemasters and crews are once again proving their worth on this mission, as they have in previous ODF campaigns.

"This is a very robust aircraft that can absorb a lot of punishment," said Lt. Col. Christopher "Baron" Von Thaden, 728th Airlift Squadron director of operations.

The Deep Freeze veteran pilot is scheduled to deploy to the ice in late October.

"It's rare to cancel a mission because of a broken plane, and that's a credit to our highly trained maintainers. They're the best we can find, and it shows."

Operating in such an extreme environment poses many challenges for these Airmen. In addition to landing in total darkness, they have to protect the aircraft, and themselves, from severe cold and wind.

"We try as hard as we can not to shut down engines after landing," said Senior Master Sgt. Ty Brooks, 97th AS loadmaster scheduler and veteran of more than 20 ODF deployments. "We have to shut down to refuel, however, and as soon as that happens, we fire up the heaters to protect the landing gear and engines from dangerous ice build-up."

The ODF season is scheduled for Sept. 26 through Feb. 24 and these 446th AW Reservists and their active duty brethren will be working feverishly to support the scientists that rely so heavily on Air Force airlift capability. During this year's pre-season build up known as WINFLY, the 13th AF led network of aircraft transported more than 400 passengers and more than 200 tons of cargo.

"This is my favorite mission," said Colonel Von Thaden. "We get to help scientists make important discoveries, it's a completely peaceful mission, there are no hostilities... you're even nice to the penguins."

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