C-17s Begin Deep Freeze Flights in Antarctica

Winter flying season in Antarctica is underway, as C-17s and Airmen deployed for Operation Deep Freeze begin flying in crucial personnel and equipment.

The C-17s, deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., have flown three missions in recent weeks, transporting 151 personnel and 165,000 pounds of cargo to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, according to a Pacific Air Forces release. Airmen quarantined for two weeks before flying in to keep Antarctica the last continent on the globe free of COVID-19.

Operation Deep Freeze is the military’s 65-year mission to support National Science Foundation research in Antarctica. The mission’s season typically begins in early August, with the busiest part running from September to November.

“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, Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica deputy commander, in the release. “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.”

Last month, 30 Airmen deployed from the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings at McChord to New Zealand, where they quarantined before the flights began. Crews also are minimizing contact with passengers, wearing masks, and carrying a separate galley and lavatory to further protect from COVID-19. The NSF is keeping only the minimum number of personnel in the facilities to avoid the virus, according to a release.