Reserve Airmen fly Operation Deep Freeze SPRINGFLY missions

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Grant Saylor
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Ten Reservists from the 446th Airlift Wing deployed Sept. 4 to Christchurch, New Zealand in support of Operation Deep Freeze, 2008-2009 SPRINGFLY. 

Formerly known as WINFLY, SPRINGFLYis the ODF ramp up phase to prepare buildings and equipment, as well as pave the overland traverse to the South Pole, in preparation for the arrival of the main body of military and civilian personnel during the main season in October. 

The group of C-17 pilots and loadmasters joined forces with 29 active-duty brethren from the 62nd AW, transporting valuable fuel, food and supplies to support the U.S. Antarctic Program and National Science Foundation personnel. 

Operation Deep Freeze is the only U.S. Air Force-led Joint Task Force, and Airmen from the 446th AW play a critical role in the mission. 

"As Reservists, we're the ones that provide continuity to this mission since we're here year after year," said Senior Master Sgt. Lance Gustafson, Operation Deep Freeze SPRINGFLY superintendent. 

Sergeant Gustafson is a loadmaster with the 313th Airlift Squadron, and this was his 28th mission to the ice. He was part of last year's team which air-dropped a critical engine part to a stranded fishing trawler in the Antarctic ocean. He said one of the most unique missions in this year's Deep Freeze season is the addition of night vision goggle flying into Antarctica. 

"Obviously, night vision flying is nothing new to us," said Sergeant Gustafson. "But this will demonstrate to the NSF that we can do it and thereby provide 24/7 support to their personnel in Antarctica, if necessary". 

Since fuel is such a precious resource in Antarctica, C-17's from McChord will fly a wind turbine to the central base of operations at McMurdo Station, said Chief Master Sgt. James Masura, 446th AW ODF operations supervisor. 

If power can be supplied by wind instead of generators, the Chief said, fuel usage at the station could be cut significantly. 

"If it works," said Chief Masura, "there are plans under way for a wind farm at Scott Base (close to McMurdo)." 

On mission to Antarctica, 446th AW Airmen must performed under extreme conditions. 

"One of the major challenges of this mission is the harsh weather," said Master Sgt. Ernest Barrera, 313th AS loadmaster and veteran of three ODF missions. 

"It was real cold and windy on the first run to the ice," said Sergeant Barrera. "As in, minus 44 (degrees Fahrenheit) with the wind chill!" 

Fortunately, the 446th's team of experts came prepared. 

"We usually wear three layers with a big parka, boots, and face mask," said Sergeant Gustafson. "Our gear is just phenomenal!" 

Operation Deep Freeze gives the world an idea of the incredible capabilities of the C-17 and the Airmen of the U.S. Air Force, said Lt. Col. Isabel Kalocsay, a pilot with the 97th AS. She flew her first ODF mission last February. 

"With the war in Iraq, it's easy to forget we fly so many other important missions that are not military-related," said Colonel Kalocsay. "This is just one of them."