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News | Sept. 28, 2020

Operation Deep Freeze kicks off 2020-2021 main season

By Mr. Edzel Butac 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The U.S. military kicked off the 2020-2021 season of Operation DEEP FREEZE (ODF), when a U.S. Air Force Globemaster III, assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., completed three winter fly-in, or WinFly missions, to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, a key research and operations facility for the United States Antarctic Program (USAP).

“It’s always a privilege for the 446th Airlift Wing to be part of Operation Deep Freeze,” said Col. Charles Metzgar, 446th Airlift Wing’s vice commander. “The depth of expertise our personnel bring and contribute to this mission is close to a hundred years’ worth of experience that cannot be replicated.”

Metzgar took part in ODF in 2009 and said it was a rewarding experience. “Our ability to provide support to such an important scientific endeavor is an honor that we in the 446th take very seriously and are extremely proud of.”

The aircraft, flown by 446th and 62nd Airlift Wings, delivered 151 personnel and 165K pounds of cargo during a late September WinFly. These missions were flown using COVID-19 mitigation procedures due to the passenger movement. Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, is the staging point before deployment to Antarctica.

“This year has presented some unique challenges to our ODF crews with the COVID-19 restrictions in New Zealand,” Metzgar said.

They are minimizing as much as possible any interaction with the aircrews and passengers, and if they must, both parties will be wearing masks. Additionally, they are taking an air transportable galley and lavatory (ATGL) that is essentially a bathroom and kitchen on a pallet that can be used by passengers, while the aircrew will use the bathroom already on the aircraft.

ODF is a joint service, inter-agency support for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which manages the USAP. Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica (JTF-SFA) provides Department of Defense support to the NSF and the USAP through ODF.

This support is provided by the Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica, led by Pacific Air Forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. JTF-SFA coordinates strategic inter-theater airlift, tactical deep field support, aeromedical evacuation support, search and rescue response, sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo handling, and transportation requirements.

Reserve, Active duty and National Guard personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard work together as part of JTF-SFA. This team proudly continues the tradition of U.S. military support to the USAP and demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a stable Pacific region.

ODF is unlike any other U.S. military operation. It is one of the military's most difficult peacetime missions due to the harsh Antarctic environment. The U.S. military is uniquely equipped and trained to operate in such an austere environment and has therefore provided support to the USAP since 1955.

“The 2020-2021 ODF season marks the 61st Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty and the 65th year of military dedication, ingenuity and labor in support of the Antarctic mission,” said Col. Jamielyn Thompson, JTF-SFA deputy commander. “Each season presents new challenges and this year was no different as we took special precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while also providing transportation and logistics to the U.S. Antarctic Program and the National Science Foundation.”

JTF-SFA coordinates strategic inter-theater airlift, tactical deep field support, aeromedical evacuation support, search and rescue response, sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply logistics, port cargo handling and transportation requirements.

The ODF season runs annually, August 1st through July 31st. This timeframe allows the NSF’s research teams and partnered entities the safest and most efficient method of accomplishing their joint goals.

Information was taken from Pacific Air Forces' press release.)