By Lt. David DiSanto
Navy Cargo Handling Battalion ONE (NCHB 1) S3, Officer in Charge
When leaving for a detachment you never know exactly what to expect. Sure, there are the emotions of leaving family and completing the mission at hand and Operation Deep Freeze 2016 is no different.
Waking up before most of Hampton Roads on Jan. 13 2016, members of Navy Cargo Handling Battalion ONE headed to Cheatham Annex to travel as a group to Norfolk International Airport. From Norfolk the CARGO Handlers took various routes via Christchurch, New Zealand on their way to McMurdo Station located on Ross Island in Antarctica.
To make this trip at least five separate flights and nearly 30 hours of flying were required just for one leg of the operation.
Upon arriving in Christchurch our entire group was escorted to the U.S. Antarctic Programs Facility where everyone had their first encounter with Extreme Cold Weather Gear for Operation Deep Freeze 2016.
This was an important first step in the Antarctic mission because proper gear at the right size allows for longevity in the harsh elements and the selection of gear available at McMurdo Station is limited.
Once this was complete everyone proceeded to get their accommodations situated and get acclimated to the time change after such long flights. Normally, one full day is allocated to see New Zealand prior to departing for “The Ice” as Antarctica is commonly referred and this year was no different.
With the amount of gear and personnel this year, two flights or “chalks” would be required to get everyone to “The Ice”. The number of available aircraft to transport personnel and equipment was not an issue for us. Rather, it was the weather on Antarctica which can change very quickly and impact flight schedules on a regular basis.
Our first group was delayed several times on the first scheduled day to head to McMurdo Station but eventually departed and arrived safely. The second group would have to wait for more than two days before conditions supported safe passage.
While waiting to arrive on “The Ice” Sailors participated in tours of Christchurch as they mentally prepared themselves for their next leg of the deployment.
Stay tuned for future blog posts about NCHB 1Sailors working on “The Ice.”