Lake George, N.Y. --
Recruiters from the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing showcased the wing’s polar mission during the annual Lake George Winter Carnival on Feb. 5 and 6 in Lake George Village.
The 109th Airlift Wing flies the LC-130, the largest aircraft in the world that can land on snow and ice using skis.
The wing regularly flies to Antarctica and Greenland, and the special equipment they use to perform those missions-- arctic tents and snowmobiles--were featured along with a hot chocolate stand, and the opportunity to play the game corn hole with Airmen at the site.
The artic tent is double lined and equipped with a stove to protect service members from the harsh, freezing conditions. The snowmobile with the sled is used to groom the runway or “skiway” for the LC-130s to land and take off.
Located at the base of Lake George, Lake George Village is a center for Adirondack tourism year around. The village was the site of the French and Indian War battle featured in "The Last of the Mohicans" and is a base for Adirondack hikers , campers, boaters and skiers in the winter months. The annual winter carnival brings people in to enjoy the snow and events on the frozen lake.
Handing out hot chocolate and playing yard games was a way to break the ice and get people interested in the mission, explained Tech Sgt. Ethan Schager, one of the wing’s recruiters.
The recruiting team, maintainers, and operations group all worked together to set up the artic display.
The 109th Airlift Wing, based at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York, is the only air unit in the world that routinely flies to Antarctica and Greenland to support U.S. science research.
“We wanted to reach as many people as possible and tell them about our mission”, Schager said. “We spoke to so many people who didn’t even know we existed, even people from the capital region.”
The recruiting team has not been able to take part in any local events in almost two years due to COVID-19. Community engagement is a very important part of their job.
Being able to work with the festival committee to be a part of this outdoor event was a great way to kick off 2022, Schager said.
“We couldn’t get into schools or do anything, we’ve just been stuck in our offices,” said Tech. Sgt. Josana Stone, a 109th recruiter. “Once we heard about this winter carnival event, we jumped on the opportunity right away.”
The idea started last year in November and different shops around the base came together to make the carnival happen, he explained. Having good relationships with the local community is crucial for the mission, Stone said.
“Us being there this weekend allowed people to get out of the cold while learning about our mission”, Schager said. “Even if they weren’t interested in the Air National Guard, it’s awesome to be able to break down barriers and make connections with the community.”
The recruiters will be back in Lake George at the park downtown for the other Winter Carnival weekends on Feb. 12, 13 and Feb. 19, 20.