Airmen, aircraft continue Greenland mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Catharine Schmidt
  • 109th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Every year a group of Airmen and a few ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft head for the Arctic region to support the National Science Foundation and get some real-world training out of their base at Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. This year the Greenland mission is in full swing with 70 Airmen and two LC-130 aircraft completing the fourth rotation of the season June 27-30. Only two rotations are left before the 2014 season comes to a close.

The Airmen and aircraft are with the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing based out of Stratton Air National Guard Base, Scotia, N.Y. During the U.S. winter season, the 109th AW is supporting Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica, and in the summer months, the unit flies to Greenland to not only continue their support for NSF but to also train for ODF.

"The overall mission here is two-fold," said Capt. Rachel Leimbach, the supervisor of flying (SOF) for the most recent rotation. "Our primary mission is in support of the NSF and CPS (CH2M Hill Polar Services). We fly missions to (forward-deployed locations) for the enhancement of science - similar to what we do in Antarctica."

The LC-130s are the only aircraft of its kind in the military, able to land on snow and ice and fly supply and refueling missions to the different camps NSF works out of, both in Greenland and Antarctica.

"The other part of our mission is training out of Raven Camp," she said. "There is minimal science that we do at Raven, making it primarily a training site, which is how we get the crews ready for Antarctica."

Greenland makes for a much safer environment to train aircrews for the ODF season, she said.

Besides the aircrews, deployments to Greenland also consist of maintainers to tend to the aircraft, Airmen with the Small Air Terminal to handle the cargo and passengers, the first sergeant, and various other support staff to help keep the mission going.

"We have about 40 maintainers here this rotation," said Master Sgt. Joseph Deamer of the 109th Maintenance Group who has taken the trip to Greenland about 15 times since joining the unit in 1996. "Our primary mission is to fix the aircraft so they fly their missions while here."

Master Sgt. Scott Molyneaux of the Small Air Terminal has also been up numerous times. "My first time here was in 2003 and since then I've been up at least once a year."

Each year maintenance and weather delays and cancellations are pretty typical, but Molyneaux said his section and everyone else still push on to complete the mission. "We have a great working relationship with the CPS civilians and the research staff that goes up to the camps. I think that helps us get our work done because it's their cargo that we're moving."

Tech. Sgt. Amie Moore is also with the Small Air Terminal. In March she returned from a six-month deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, with other members of the 109th Small Air Terminal, making it clear the Airmen at the 109th AW can do it all.

"I feel like this mission allows us more ownership," she said. " I'm very proud that we're the only ones who do it."

Master Sgt. Michael Lazzari was the first sergeant for the rotation and said this was his first trip to Greenland.

"It's quite a unique mission up here, and the roles of the first sergeant are very extensive," he said. His role as first sergeant is to take care of everyone deployed and their needs in all areas. "It can be hectic but it's still a lot of fun."

Lazzari said he spoke to the first sergeants who had been up to Greenland before him to better prepare for the deployment. "I felt great coming into it for the first time and had a good idea of what to expect. Everyone here was a great help. This isn't the first trip for a lot of people, so I relied on their experience to help me do my job well."

Typical rotations in Greenland last about two weeks and consist of an average of three to five aircraft. The season starts in the March/April timeframe and comes to a close in August; however, there's not much downtime for those supporting the Greenland mission.

"We have our Greenland planning conference in October to start preparing," Leimbach said. "It's a lot of preparation to get ready."

While they start their planning in October, Airmen and the ski-equipped aircraft are on their way to Antarctica for Operation Deep Freeze.

Whether they're in Greenland training, in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, in New York supporting the state mission or in Antarctica supporting the National Science Foundation, the members of the 109th Airlift Wing are ready for whatever mission comes their way.