NY Air Guard wings support Canadian Forces Arctic exercise

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jamie Spaulding
  • 109th Airlift Wing

The New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing and 105th Airlift Wing are partnering with the Vermont Army National Guard, and the Canadian Forces in support of Exercise Guerrier Nordique 2023 in the Canadian Arctic.


The 109th Airlift Wing, based at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York, deployed more than 60 personnel to Resolute Bay in Canada’s northern Arctic territories to act as tactical airlift support for the exercise being conducted by the Canadian Armed Forces from 22nd February to the end of March.


Personnel will be transported by C-17 aircraft from the 105th to Resolute Bay, Nunavut, Canada. From there, teams will forward deploy to establish remote camps.


Among the deployers are the 109th’s Polar Camp Skiway Team (PCST), a group of personnel trained to establish a remote camp in extreme cold weather environments and then build a ski landing area capable of supporting the unit’s LC-130 Hercules aircraft which will deploy to the area the weekend of March 4-5.


“I’m proud and excited for the hard work of our LC-130 aviators and other Multi-Capable Airmen in support of the Guerrier Nordique exercise, "said Col. Christian Sander, the commander of the 109th.


"The Chief of Staff of the Air Force has cited the LC-130 as a critical power projection enabler in the Arctic and our actions in support of Guerrier Nordique, reinforce the Chief’s lines of effort as they pertain to pursuing collaborative planning and exercise opportunities with Canada, a critical US strategic partner," Sander added.


For the first time, Guerrier Nordique will focus on combat capability and lethality in temperatures that stay well below zero all day, every day during the training period.


“Through our collective actions, we demonstrate US commitment to the region and showcase a one-of-a-kind capability thru the LC-130 airlift.  Given the geo-political state with China and Russia, this demonstration of global reach and agile combat employment could not have come at a better time in the Arctic,” Sander said.


The 109th Airlift Wing Airmen will be supporting the exercise until the end of March.


Vermont Army National Guard Soldiers will be transported to Resolute Bay, Nunavut on board a C-17Globemaster III from the 105th Airlift Wing, based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York.


 From there, teams will forward deploy to establish remote camps.


The 109th’s LC-130 Hercules are the largest ski-equipped aircraft in the world, capable of landing on ice and snow in polar environments.

As the only unit to fly the LC-130H, the 109th provides airlift support to science research stations in Antarctica and Greenland.


Among the 109th deployers, are the 109th’s Polar Camp Skiway Team (PCST), a group of personnel trained to establish a remote camp in extreme cold weather environments and then build a ski landing area capable of supporting the unit’s LC-130 Hercules aircraft.


The specially trained team works with the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 440 Squadron which flies the Twin Ottter ski-equipped aircraft to establish ski landing areas.


The Canadians fly the New York team into the location where the remote camp is being established, and the 109th Airmen used specially equipped snowmobiles to lay out the landing zone for the larger American LC-130Hs.


In the past, Guerrier Nordique has operated as a training exercise for emergency response and domestic operations in extreme weather in Northern Canada.


The Vermont Army National Guard, which includes a mountain warfare battalion, has taken part in the exercise since 2012.


“While elements of the Vermont guard and Canadian Armed forces will be conducting training, the role of the 109th Airlift Wing is as a real-world tactical airlift,” said Chief Master Sgt. Ron Jemmott, the senior enlisted leader for the wing’s maintenance squadron and a member of the PCST.


 “Our job is to establish the ski landing area as a lifeline for the guys out there training,” Jemmott added.


Once established, the remote camp and ski landing area will provide multinational ground forces with tactical support via the 109th’s LC-130s.


This can include flying supplies and personnel to and from the exercise site and aeromedical evacuation if needed, Jemmott said.


“The exercise will culminate in a mock overland assault of an airfield 100 miles away, wherein Canadian and American soldiers will utilize snow machines and vehicles-- capable of traversing the Arctic terrain--to travel, assault, and secure the airfield,” explained Lt. Col. Matt Sala, a pilot with the 109th Airlift Wing and officer in charge of the PCST during Guerrier Nordique.


“Our job is to use skills we have built over years of operating in the Arctic and Antarctic to provide the real-world tactical support to enable citizen soldiers from Canada and the U.S. to develop similar abilities through exercising their role in possible Arctic combat operations,” Sala said.


Canadian Armed Forces and Vermont Army National Guard personnel will deploy to the exercise area and conduct combat training operations, establishing their own remote camp from which to operate and train in Arctic combat and survival techniques.


“Exercises like this illustrate the growing strategic importance of developing American and allied capabilities in the Arctic as interest in the region is scaling up around the world,” Jemmott said.


“When adversaries like China and Russia are beginning to operate more often there, it is time for us to work with allies and other agencies to increase our individual capabilities as well as our interoperability so we can compete in the future,” Jemmott added.