Airmen, aircraft continue Greenland mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Catharine Schmidt
  • 109th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Approximately 70 Air National Guard Airmen and two ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules completed the fourth rotation in the Arctic region to support the National Science Foundation, June 27-30 here.

A group of Airmen and LC-130s head for the Arctic region every year to support the foundation and get real-world training out of their base at Kangerlussuaq.

The Airmen and aircraft are with the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing based out of Stratton Air National Guard Base, Scotia, New York. During the U.S. winter season, the 109th AW is supporting Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica, and in the summer months, the unit flies to Greenland to not only continue their support for NSF but to also train for the exercise. There are only two rotations left here before the 2014 season comes to a close.

"The overall mission here is two-fold," said Capt. Rachel Leimbach, the supervisor of flying for the most recent rotation. "Our primary mission is in support of the NSF and CPS (CH2M Hill Polar Services). We fly missions to (forward-deployed locations) for the enhancement of science, similar to what we do in Antarctica."

The LC-130s are the only aircraft of its kind in the military, able to land on snow and ice and fly supply and refueling missions to the different camps the foundation utilizes.

"The other part of our mission is training out of Raven Camp," she said. "There is minimal science that we do at Raven, making it primarily a training site, which is how we get the crews ready for Antarctica."

Greenland makes for a much safer environment to train aircrews for the deep-freeze season, she said.

Besides the aircrews, deployments to Greenland also include maintainers that tend to the aircraft. Airmen with the small air terminal handle the cargo and passengers, and the first sergeant and various other support staff, help keep the mission going.

"We have about 40 maintainers here this rotation," said Master Sgt. Joseph Deamer of the 109th Maintenance Group. "Our primary mission is to fix the aircraft so they fly their missions while here."

"We have a great working relationship with the CPS civilians and the research staff that goes up to the camps,” he said. “I think that helps us get our work done because it's their cargo that we're moving."

Each year weather delays and cancellations are pretty typical, but Master Sgt. Scott Molyneaux said his section and everyone else still push on to complete the mission.

"It's quite a unique mission up here, and the roles of the first sergeant are very extensive," said Master Sgt. Michael Lazzari, the first sergeant for this rotation. "It can be hectic but it's still a lot of fun."

Lazzari said he spoke to the first sergeants who had been up to Greenland before him to better prepare for the deployment.

"I felt great coming into it for the first time and had a good idea of what to expect,” he said. “Everyone here was a great help. This isn't the first trip for a lot of people, so I relied on their experience to help me do my job well."

Typical rotations in Greenland last about two weeks and consist of an average of three to five aircraft. The season starts in the March-April timeframe and comes to a close in August.