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Airmen, aircraft prepare for ODF

SCOTIA, NY -  An LC-130 aircraft bound for Antarctica in support of Operation DEEP FREEZE takes off from Stratton Air National Guard Base Oct. 18, 2013. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. William M. Gizara/Released)

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STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. -- By the end of the month, Airmen and aircraft with the 109th Airlift Wing are expected to be in place at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, supporting the National Science Foundation for the 28th season of Operation Deep Freeze.

Throughout the season, which runs through February, a total of seven LC-130 ski-equipped aircraft and about 500 Airmen are expected to deploy, with 330 missions planned. About 120 Airmen will be deployed on the ice at any one time.

The unique capabilities of the ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft make it the only one of its kind in the U.S. military, able to land on snow and ice. The primary mission of the 109th AW is to provide airlift within Antarctica, flying to various remote locations from McMurdo Station. Crews will transport scientists, support personnel, fuel, supplies, medical supplies and more throughout the season.

This year, the IcePod missions are expected to increase from the previous season.

"This season is seeing the maturation of the Common Science Support Pod with 18 IcePod missions planned compared to three missions last season," said Lt. Col. Blair Herdrick, 139th Airlift Squadron's Antarctic Operations chief. "IcePod is a project by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) at Columbia University in New York.  The IcePod project utilizes the Common Science Support Pod to house a variety of instruments to measure changes in the Antarctic ice sheet."

The IcePod missions were flown for the first time in Antarctica last season, and was deemed one of the biggest successes of the year.

The 109th AW has been supporting the NSF's South Pole research since 1988. Since 1999, the unit has been the sole provider of this type of airlift to the NSF and U.S. Antarctic research efforts.