JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. , March 3, 2020 --The 331st Transportation Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) traveled to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to support Operation Deep Freeze for the first time since 2012.
Operation Deep Freeze is a joint-service, ongoing Defense Support to Civilian Authorities activity in support of the National Science Foundation, lead agency for the U.S. Antarctic Program. Mission support consists of active duty, Guard and Reserve personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Army, and Coast Guard, as well as Department of Defense civilians and attached non-DOD civilians.
The unit built a modular causeway system, which are flat rectangular sections forming a floating pier assembled with locking pins, and can be configured into numerous shapes. The pier was powered by small Army vessels for the on-load and off-load of cargo and equipment from watercraft to an unimproved shoreline, or degraded fixed-port facility.
"It was extremely important for us to perform at a high level. This was their annual resupply mission to McMurdo Station to sustain the workforce over the severe, arctic winter period when the station is cut off from the rest of the world," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Wallace, 331st Trans. Co. platoon sergeant.
Since the 331st Trans. Co. trains for logistics-over-the-shore missions year-round, Operation Deep Freeze is exactly the type of real-world mission that can benefit from the unit.
"Once we received the notification to support the mission it was business as usual," said Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Gross, 331st Trans. Co. NCOIC. "We handpicked approximately 40 experienced Soldiers who would work hard and learn quickly."
In the past, a large man-made ice pier was used to discharge the resupply vessel, but a storm damaged the pier and the structural integrity required for the operation.
"During the off-load we worked alongside the U.S. Navy and New Zealand Defense Forces," Gross said. "Everyone knew what we had to do, and we came together to execute the mission. It was truly 'One Team, One Fight.'"
Gross went on to explain when facing -28 degrees, anything you touch could turn into a safety incident.
"The Soldiers performed really well under the extreme temperatures," Gross said. "Even though they were freezing cold, they treated this like any other critical mission, and executed at a high level while keeping morale high."
The team worked day and night to help off-load more than 40 million pounds of construction materials and equipment, which will be used to expand the facilities at McMurdo Station.
"It was an awesome experience," Wallace said. "It's not every day you get to step foot on Antarctica."