JB McChord Airmen set Operation Deep Freeze record

  • Published
  • By Sandra Pishner
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Reservists from the 446th Airlift Wing and active-duty Airmen from the 62nd Airlift Wing completed a record-setting season for Operation Deep Freeze.

As the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron aircrews and maintainers, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., conducted 74 missions in support of ODF, six more than any previous season. Squadron members also donated a record $10,000 to charities in Christchurch, New Zealand, where they stage ODF C-17 Globemaster III missions.

Operation Deep Freeze is a joint service, inter-agency activity that supports the National Science Foundation, which manages the United States Antarctic Program. Airlift support began Aug. 20, 2011, and ended with the return of the Airmen in early March.

Continuing the theme of firsts for this season, JB McChord Airmen conducted a C-17 operational South Pole airdrop and a mid-winter medical evacuation out of McMurdo using night-vision goggles. And for the first time in ODF, a reservist was commander of the 304th EAS.

Lt. Col. Bill Eberhardt, from the 728th Airlift Squadron here, commanded the squadron of 35.

"Aircrew wise, it's a 50-50 split (between 446th and 62nd AWs)," Eberhardt said. "Generally, the 446th Operations Group mans the staff of the 304th EAS. We (the 446th AW) have the (director of operations), superintendent, and chief loadmaster. The only non-reservist on the staff is from the 62nd Airlift Wing, the commander of the squadron."

This year, unit members flew 2,524 passengers south, 2,631 passengers north and more than 6.3 million pounds in cargo.

"Pretty impressive for one small squadron with one airplane," Eberhardt said.

At the end of the season the JB McChord contingent was extremely busy, flying almost every day, Eberhardt said.

"Weather and fuel planning are the primary challenges of flying ODF missions," Eberhardt said. "When you go down there to McMurdo or airdrop on the South Pole, there's only one runway within about 2,200 miles you can land on. So you have issues with mission planning; if you lose an engine or something like that you don't have a lot of options."

This season, Eberhardt said, was one of the most successful to date. And they get to do it all again Aug. 20, 2012.