Airmen from the 109th Airlift Wing begin their journey to Antarctica

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SCOTIA, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Airmen from the Air National Guard 109th Airlift Wing are on their way to Antarctica to assist scientists as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which crews from the 109th have supported since 1988.

“Once you start flying this mission, it gets in your blood, and you don’t ever want to leave it,” said Colonel Cliff Souza, operations group commander.

Airmen departed Monday morning as part of the 34th season of the operation, which provides logistical support to scientists based in Antarctica. From December through February, 184 airmen will be stationed to help resupply science stations across the continent.

“The logistics capacity does not exist outside the Department of Defense to be able to support that type of effort in Antarctica. In order to get the cargo that’s needed to be moved, both people, cargo and fuel to support South Pole station and all the other seasonal science camps,” Souza explained.

Operation Deep Freeze giving airmen some valuable experience, “It’s adventurous, it’s fun. Our crews are extremely motivated, our maintainers are the best in the world at what they do,” the operations group commander said.

The effort also giving crews the opportunity to step foot onto a place many of us will never get the opportunity to.

“It’s stunningly beautiful. It’s stunningly beautiful when the weather is good, when the weather is not good, it can get a little sporty sometimes,” said Souza, who’s traveled to the South Pole for the mission for over 20 years.

But to handle that bad weather and potential extreme conditions, crews are aboard the only ski-equipped LC-130 aircrafts in the United States military, which are able to land on snow and ice.

“I like to say it’s the largest airplane you can do little airplane things with. It’s like flying a very large four engine bush plane,” Souza says.

With Monday’s departure, airmen will fly in legs before eventually reaching Christchurch, New Zealand prior to making it to Antarctica. This year however, crews will be subject to longer layovers than usual due to COVID quarantines.

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