McChord crews complete first-ever Antarctica night vision goggle mission

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  • By Staff Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson
Team McChord Airmen from the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings completed the first-ever night vision goggle mission Sept. 11. 

The Airmen from the McChord active-duty and Reserve wings are deployed to Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica where they took off from Christchurch, New Zealand, and landed at McMurdo Station. 

"The successful completion of this mission opens the door for us to provide support to the National Science Foundation on a year-round basis," said Lt. Col. Jim McGann, Operation Deep Freeze commander who is assigned to the 62nd Operations Group. 

"McChord has performed Deep Freeze missions for more than 10 years and this mission demonstrates our ability to provide the NSF with critical logistical capability well into the future," he said. 

The joint aircrew was extremely pleased all the training and careful planning that went into the historic NVG mission, initially planned for last April, had finally paid off. 

"For five months of the year the Antarctic shelf is in complete darkness," said Lt. Col. Scott Weichert, a Reservist with the 313th Airlift Squadron and serving as Operation Deep Freeze deputy commander. "You're talking about a half the year without being able to assist our partners in the National Science Foundation. Now, that can all change." 

From August through February each year Airmen from McChord deliver supplies to the National Science Foundation in Antarctica. This milestone mission could result in the capability to fly to that continent year round. 

"I can't tell you how proud I am that Team McChord is part of this historic event," said Col. Jeffrey L. Stephenson, 62nd Airlift Wing commander. "The successful completion of this mission is a true testament to the global reach capabilities of our Airmen and the C-17. Our team is proud to help expand our support to the National Science Foundation and U.S. Antarctic Program as they continue their research in Antarctica, and to help their people when they are most in need." 

The U.S. military's support to Operation Deep Freeze began in 1955. Through this program, McChord Airmen provide airlift support in an extremely adverse environment, sometimes landing the C-17 on a six-foot thick ice runway, to deliver supplies to the NSF from August through February each season. 

"There are a number of emotions involved in the successful completion of this mission, but ultimately our Reservists will see this time as the precursor to providing new opportunities. The National Science Foundation's U.S. Antarctica program will reap the rewards this (capability) will offer them," said Col. Lisa K. Tank, 446th Airlift Wing vice commander. "There were many herculean efforts that made a positive impact on this Air Force mission. We can and should all be very proud of that." 

During the 2007-2008 season, McChord C-17s flew 57 missions to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, from Christchurch carrying more than 3.1 million pounds of cargo and more than 2,800 passengers. On the return missions from the frozen sea shelf of McMurdo, C-17 aircrews flew more than 850,000 pounds of cargo and 2,700 passengers back to Christchurch.