Operation Deep Freeze: Boots on Ice

By Chief Logistics Specialist James Hawley,
Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Public Affairs

MCMURDO STATION, Antarctica (NNS) -- After four long days of travel, Sailors from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) 1 arrived safely at the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station in Antarctica, where they will be participating in Operation Deep Freeze 2017.

The annual mission, which NCHB 1 has been participating in for more than 50 years, resupplies the U.S. Antarctic Program's largest base on the most remote continent. NSF manages the Antarctic Program.

The Sailors are in high spirits and are glad to be participating in such a unique opportunity.

"I'm thrilled to be here," said Chief Boatswain's Mate Mykel Stevens. "I'm one of the lucky few who have been here multiple times, but I'm so glad there are a lot of junior troops here who are getting to experience this rare opportunity." 

A rare opportunity it is, as cargo handlers are the Navy's only robust and recurrent presence on the Antarctic continent.

The rareness of the opportunity is not lost on Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Ryan Shultz, who said, "I'm just excited to see something that so few people have the opportunity have seeing." 

Prior to arriving in Antarctica, Sailors received extreme cold weather gear in Christchurch, New Zealand, to prepare for the mission. With the significant time change -- 18 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time -- coupled with 24 hours of daylight create challenges for acclimatization. 

"It takes some time to adjust to the unique environment down here," said Lt. David Shayeson, detachment officer in charge. 

Sailors have been acclimating to the weather and harsh environmental conditions with physical training and team-building activities, allowing Sailors to settle into a routine and prepare for the start of cargo operations. 

One event included a climate acclimatization team hike, in which Sailors trekked over three miles on the Ridge Line trail overlooking the McMurdo Sound. Along the way, they stopped at memorial markers commemorating the lives of shipmates who lost their lives while working here in 1956 and 1982, in the promotion of scientific endeavors in the last frontier. 

With shipboard operations starting in a few days, NCHB 1 Sailors have been busy performing driver training, cargo accountability training, and lending assistance to the camp where needed. 

Additionally, Sailors have leveraged opportunities to listen to NSF's Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center lectures, which cover a broad range of scientific research initiatives here. 

"People are friendly to talk to and have a lot of interesting information to share about this continent," said Lt. Michael Crum, assistant officer in charge. 

McMurdo's open house program also provided Sailors the opportunity to visit and tour NASA's Ground Control Station and radome, which is a critical component for receiving and disseminating orbital satellite data.

NCHB 1 deploys to NSF's McMurdo Station, where less than one percent of the world's population has ever visited, as part of Operation Deep Freeze the military's logistical support component of the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), the nation's research program on the southernmost continent.