Operation Deep Freeze takes 130th Maintenance Airman to Antarctica

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Adam Juchniewicz
  • 130th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Charles Workman, 130th Airlift Wing Electro/Environmental Systems Specialist, returned recently from a five-week deployment to the most remote, geographically separated unit on the planet, Antarctica.

Workman deployed in support of Operation Deep Freeze (ODF), an inter-agency, multi-national research and investigative mission run by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that is supported by active duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard.

While in Antarctica, Workman provided electrical maintenance support to the ski-equipped LC-130s, a modified version of the C-130 that is capable of landing on solid ice. As a part of ODF, these aircraft bring much-needed supplies, cargo, and other vital necessities to the personnel at this isolated duty station.

During his deployment, Workman repaired and maintained the complex electrical systems for various aircraft at McMurdo Station. According to Workman, the Antarctic weather provides a few unique challenges to the work environment. One of these challenges is the replacement of the ski hydraulics sensors on the aircraft. As the temperatures rise and fall, the snow tends to melt and freeze multiple times during the course of a day. The melting snow at times seeps into the hydraulic systems and when it freezes, it can prove to be extremely dangerous. This results in greater need for upkeep to the electrical systems on the LC-130s.

Workman noted that aside from the just routine maintenance, there is the aspect of working on a solid block of ice that can provide its own challenges that require extreme precaution.

Workman had previously deployed in support of ODF in October 2016, so he was well-prepared for the work conditions this time. Although the journey and work hours are long, Workman said it was "an extremely enjoyable experience."

One highlight of the deployment for Workman was having the opportunity to travel to the South Pole.

Upon reflecting on the Antarctic experience, Workman said, "It was a very unique experience. Most military deployments have a 'combat-type' element to them; this is the only deployment that I have been on that is purely for scientific purposes. Not many people get a chance to come to this part of the world. I'm honored to have done it twice now."

The U.S. military provides logistical support to the Antarctic Program, which is managed by the NSF. The Antarctic flights are one of the military's most difficult peacetime flying missions, due to the often unpredictable and severe weather conditions. The Air Force is specially equipped with trained and experienced personnel to operate in these unforgiving conditions, having provided support to NSF since 1955.