Last Minute for Deep Freeze

A combined active and Air Force Reserve Command crew from McChord AFB, Wash., on April 17 transported 100 researchers and support personnel and their gear from Antarctica in the last Operation Deep Freeze mission for the 2007-08 season. It was the latest a Deep Freeze crew had ever landed in Antarctica and just eight days before the arrival of 24-hour darkness on the continent. The standard Deep Freeze season runs from August to March, but this year a research team from Montana State University studying light-driven life in permanently frozen lakes needed to work as close to winter as possible. According to Lt. Col. James McGann, commander of C-17 Deep Freeze operations with the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord, the C-17 team is ready to handle Antarctica contingency support, “even in the middle of winter.” He has been training crews to employ night vision goggles in case they need to make a winter run to aid the few support personnel who remain behind after summer at the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station. McGann said, “I’m confident if the call comes, we can do it safely and expeditiously.” MSU professor and long-time Antarctic researcher called the last mission “a proof of concept” for both the NSF team and the Air Force. There are fewer than 20 pilots in Air Mobility Command and AFRC that have completed the three-year process to become certified to fly the hazardous missions, but Maj. Tom Jenkins of AFRC’s 446th AW at McChord, said is “one of the most sought-after missions” for airlift crews. (446th AW report by TSgt. Nick Przybyciel)