109th Airlift Wing heads to New Zealand for Operation Deep Freeze

Emily De Vito
Updated: November 23, 2020 03:30 PM
Created: November 23, 2020 12:15 PM

The New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing is not conducting its usual trip to Antarctica this year. However, they will not be too far away.

They have been doing Operation Deep Freeze for the past 32 years. The Airmen from the 109th Airlift Wing usually fly to Antarctica to support the National Science Foundation's U.S. Antarctica Program.

Crews last year completed more than 150 missions within the Antarctic by flying 2,100 research and support staff, 2.8 million pounds of cargo and 1.8 million pounds of fuel to research stations across the continent.

"The Airmen here are very excited to get down to our home away from home," said Captain Peter Gioia.

This is Captain Gioia's fourth trip with Operation Deep Freeze. However, he said due to the coronavirus pandemic, changes had to be made to this year's trip.

"What we're going to be doing is setting up in Christchurch, New Zealand, and we'll be ready to support any medical emergency evacuations for the scientists that are down in McMurdo Station in Antarctica," explained Gioia.

The reason they are not going to Antarctica is the National Science Foundation is minimizing the number of people who set foot on the content to prevent the introduction of coronavirus to Antarctica. Captain Gioia said even without going to Antarctica this year, many precautions have been taken with this trip.

"Working with multiple state agencies, different countries, the public health administration, so we're taking as many precautions as possible," said Gioia.

Monday they deployed three LC-130's with a total of 31 Airmen for the trip. These planes are what make the 109th Airlift Wing perfect for this mission.

"We are the polar experts in the Department for Defense and really the world," explained Captain Gioia. "We have the LC-130 aircraft; the 'L' stands for the skis so our planes are able to land on open snow and ice."

The Airmen will return from the trip in February.

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