Arizona Guardsman Supports Operation Deep Freeze

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161 ARW Public Affairs
Most people have a list of goals or things they would like to do before they die, which is commonly referred to as a bucket list. A frequent item on a bucket list is the goal of visiting all seven continents. For one Arizona Air National Guardsman, one of these continents can be crossed off his list.

Master Sgt. Sean Kelly, 161st Air Refueling Wing aircrew flight equipment NCO in charge, joined the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing's support of Operation Deep Freeze from Dec. 14, 2011, through Jan. 22, 2012. Operation Deep Freeze is a joint service, interagency activity that supports the National Science Foundation, which manages the U.S. Antarctic Program.

The U.S. military is uniquely equipped and trained to operate in such an austere environment and has therefore provided annual support to U.S. Antarctic research since Rear Adm. Richard E. Byrd began such operations in 1955.

"To be able to say that you have been to Antarctica and especially the South Pole is something rare, exciting and very special," Sergeant Kelly said.

The 109th AW supports this mission every year. Sometimes the aircrew flight equipment shop asks for volunteers to allow their members to be home for the holidays; however, there isn't a shortage of volunteers. In fact, Sergeant Kelly said he put his name on the list five years ago.

"When they branch out for volunteers they're looking for the best of the best - not just anyone who raises their hand," said Sergeant Kelly. "There are a lot of qualified people to do this. So for them to select me made me feel really good about my reputation; it really validated my hard work and showed me that I have excelled and am being recognized for that. It really made me feel good about my service in the Air National Guard. Plus, not a lot of people get to see penguins in their natural habitat five feet away. It was really cool."

Not only was the trip a great opportunity, but the work experience Sergeant Kelly received while there was indispensible, he said.

"It was a great opportunity to be able to work with crews from a different air frame since I have only worked with KC-135 [Stratotanker] crews," he said. "The extreme cold weather gear is not something I have had the opportunity to work with in Phoenix and getting some hands-on training was enormous.

Operation Deep Freeze is a Pacific Command responsibility organized as Joint Task Force -Support Forces Antarctica. The Joint Task Force includes cargo and fuel tanker ships provided by Military Sealift Command, active-duty and Reserve C-17 Globemaster III support from the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings at Joint-Base Lewis-McChord, N.Y.; ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules flown by the 109 AW, as well as Coast Guard icebreakers and the Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One, to provide critical port services at McMurdo Station.

"It was also a great opportunity to work with another unit," he said "You get to learn other ways of doing things and I was real proud that I got to be a part of what they do - getting the mission done and make it successful. Plus, they were very welcoming and treated me like one of their own."