Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

November 4, 2010 at 11:49am

McChord airmen chronicle Deep Freeze experience

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U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Active-duty and Reserve Airmen from the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., spent a few days supporting Operation Deep Freeze at McMurdo Station in Antarctica and related their experiences to the Defense Department's "Armed with Science" blog recently.

Among the officers who traveled to McMurdo Station were Capt. Jon Waller, a C-17 Globemaster III instructor pilot with the 62nd AW, and Capt. Chris Stephens, a C-17 weapons officer.

"(We spend) the majority of the year flying into the (Southwest Asia)," said Captain Waller, who is on his second season flying for Operation Deep Freeze. "Flying into combat is pretty cool, and landing on dirt runways is pretty cool, but landing out here on the ice definitely takes the cake."

Captain Waller described the night missions as "amazing." 

"It really opens up our capabilities to fly year-round and fly 24 hours a day," he said. "And operations on the ice with (night vision goggles) are not all that much different from what we're used to." 

The key difference might be in the length of the day since it stays sunny 24 hours a day during Antarctica's summer and disappears for months at a time during the Antarctic winter. 

Two other officers, Maj. Bruce Cohn and Capt. Chris Stephens, have also flown support missions.

"Usually, C-17 pilots never get to leave the airfield (at McMurdo Station)," wrote Major Cohn, another C-17 instructor pilot for the 62nd AW. "We fly down from Christchurch, New Zealand, land on the ice runway, offload cargo and depart." 

However, a two-day visit to the station allowed the major to learn more about the base, which is principally operated by the National Science Foundation.

"What appears ... as individual station functions is actually an eccentric mix of people working together to make science happen," he wrote. "The research that's done here spans the gambit from marine biology to climate research and volcanology. After two days of near-perpetual sunlight, breathtaking views and a crash course on McMurdo (Station), I've barely scratched the surface of what happens in Antarctica, but it's 48 hours I will never forget."    

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