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146th AW Airman Supports Operations in Antarctica

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. Candice Page
  • 146th AW/PA
Master Sgt. Nicole Wagoner, 146th Airlift Wing safety manager, recently served as an augmentee with the 109th Airlift Wing during their annual support to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Antarctica.

The 109th AW plays a critical role in supporting NSF annually by providing the use of the LC-130 Hercules aircraft that is ski-equipped. The LC-130s operated by the 109th AW are capable of landing on snow and ice safely and are used to transport supplies, equipment, fresh food and personnel to the continent.

Wagoner served as safety manger and worked daily with the airfield managers to evaluate the taxi runway conditions. Her mission was to ensure the runway was properly groomed. Grooming the ice and snow on the runway allows the LC-130 aircraft crew to safely land and take -off and complete required maintenance.

Inspecting buildings and facilities were also part of Wagoner's responsibility while in Antarctica.

"I inspected the facilities to ensure they were safe and conducive to a healthy environment," Wagoner said. "With the extreme cold weather we checked that buildings were not too hot or cold and that there was electricity. I would also verify that personnel were wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE)."

Wagoner and approximately 100 other members of the 109th AW spent 46 days on the continent and experienced temperatures that ranged between 8 degrees below zero to 24 degrees. The weather conditions not only impacted the personnel but also the mission.

"Weather was a huge obstacle during our time on the continent," Wagoner said. "We were scheduled for 42 missions but only flew 12 missions. If it was too cold, foggy, or windy the aircraft would not be able to safely land or take-off."

Although the weather impacted the mission at times the unit maintained a high reliability rate and was successful in completing the mission which ensured the research teams at McMurdo Station received all the supplies needed.

Wagoner says she enjoyed the deployment because she was able to work with the 109th AW but was also able to learn about NSF's research teams and their mission. Also during her time there she visited the South Pole.

"I recommend anyone who has the chance to serve on this mission to consider it," Wagoner said.

The 109th Airlift Wing has provided airlift support to the National Science Foundation's South Pole research program since 1988.