Robins squadron spends holidays on ice, rescuing stranded C-130

Released: 31 Dec 1998

Members of the 653rd Combat Logistics Support Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., volunteered to work during the Christmas holiday to help remove this C-130 stranded on ice in Antarctica. (Courtesy photo)

by Faye Banks
Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center Public Affairs

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFPN) -- Members of the 653rd Combat Logistics Support Squadron here volunteered to spend the holidays away from home.

The 653rd members left Dec. 8 for Antarctica to save a C-130 tenuously stranded on ice.

The plane was stranded in November when the 109th Airlift Wing New York Air National Guard unit from Schenectady, N.Y., was conducting airlift operations in Antarctica in support of the National Science Foundation. After dropping off supplies, the crew began take-off procedures when the aircraft broke through the surface of an ice field and became lodged in a 134-foot crevasse.

Because of its expertise in aircraft recovery operations, the 653rd CLSS was notified shortly before Thanksgiving that it was needed to recover and repair the aircraft at Upstream Delta, located 250 miles from civilization at McMurdo Sound, the site of National Science Foundation polar operations.

"I am constantly reminded of the absolute dedication to excellence the men and women of the 653rd CLSS possess," said Maj. Robert Swale, CLSS commander. "This deployment is another example of their outstanding professionalism and high level of maintenance expertise."

Capt. Doug Pohlman, 653rd CLSS chief of logistics production, said the timing of the mission magnifies the team members' dedication.

"Everyone who volunteered knew they would miss Christmas," he said.

"Deploying to remote areas of the world is not something new for the CLSS but this mission is bringing with it a new meaning of the word remote -- even for us," Swale said. "There is absolutely nothing for hundreds of miles except glaciers and ice."

Swale said his troops will be living and working on the ice beside the aircraft.

"The austere living and working conditions, coupled with the unique mission of removing a C-130 off of a 130-foot deep crevasse and then repairing the aircraft, is what makes this deployment so exciting," he said.

Following the initial notification, 653rd CLSS sent Senior Master Sgt. James Jenkins, structural maintenance flight superintendent, to the site as part of an advance party to assess the damage to the aircraft and develop a strategy for removing the aircraft from the ice.

Meanwhile, the 12-member team prepared for the trip by assembling their tools and receiving cold weather gear. The team arrived at Upstream Delta where they are currently staying at a camp site set up by a group of New Zealand mountaineers.

"The team is under the gun to have the aircraft removed from the crevasse and all repairs completed by the end of January," Pohlman said.

It is now summer in Antarctica, with temperatures around 15 degrees, Pohlman said. By mid-February, weather conditions deteriorate as the continent heads into winter.

"If this occurs before the aircraft is recovered, the team will have to be removed for safety reasons and the aircraft will have to remain in place throughout the harsh winter," said Pohlman. (Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)


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