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Augmentee program gives Airman new perspective on Operation Deep Freeze mission

Augmentee program gives New York National Guard Airman new perspective on Operation Deep Freeze Mission

Senior Airman Kayla Casey reviews paperwork with Tech. Sgt. Shannon Griese at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Nov. 9, 2017. The Airmen are from the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing (AW) in Scotia, N.Y and are deployed to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze (ODF), the logistical support provided by the Department of Defense to the U.S. Antarctic Program. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Catharine Schmidt)

Augmentee program gives New York National Guard Airman new perspective on Operation Deep Freeze Mission

Senior Airman Kayla Casey, a financial management technician assigned to the 109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard, is pinned on by Master Sgt. Seth Bathrick, left, and Col. Al Ross during her promotion ceremony at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Nov. 4, 2017. Casey is assigned to Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze, the logistical support provided by the Department of Defense to the U.S. Antarctic Program. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Catharine Schmidt)

MCMURDO STATION, Antarctica --

As a financial management technician with the 109thAirlift Wing, Senior Airman Kayla Casey didn’t think she’d have the opportunity to see the other side of the world many Airmen at her unit frequent each and every year.

That changed when she exited the C-17 Globemaster III and took her first steps on the coldest place on Earth Oct. 24th. 

Now, as an augmentee for Joint Task Force – Support Forces Antarctica (JTF-SFA) here, Casey, a West Sand Lake, N.Y. resident, has a brand-new perspective on the mission the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing from Scotia, New York, has been a part of for almost 30 years.

Having the world’s only ski-equipped cargo aircraft - LC-130 “Skibirds” - the wing supports Operation Deep Freeze (ODF) which is the Department of Defense’s logistical support to the National Science Foundation’s U.S. Antarctic Program. 

Casey works directly for JTF-SFA as a Mission Support information manager. Her duties include staff support, publishing records, administrative communication and workgroup management.

“The augmentee program gives people an opportunity to see the mission close up and understand it,” said Col. Al Ross, 13th Air Expeditionary Group, JTF-SFA commander. “It helps them understand why they’re doing their job at home or how the impact of their job at home benefits what we do here.” 

At home station in New York, Casey and the rest of the finance team work diligently on various pay issues, especially during the ODF season. Issues dealing with pay orders and travel orders from the other side of the world make more sense to Casey now.

“It’s definitely helped me tremendously especially with my job at home,” she said. “Now I understand what the members are going through and what issues they’re having, especially when it comes to getting paid or signing orders.”

Casey has also had the opportunity to see all the work it takes to keep the aircraft going in the harsh environment.

“I went out on the flightline and got to see what the members do every day, and it was incredible” she said. “It makes me so incredibly proud to be part of the 109th and the mission that we’re doing here.”

Not only will Casey return home with a new outlook on the overall mission, she’ll also return home one rank higher than when she left for Antarctica. Casey was promoted to Senior Airman while here, Nov. 4. 

She said the promotion and the entire experience here is something she’ll never forget.