Greenland is also relatively close to Schenectady in polar terms. A six-hour flight in a Herc will get the planes to the 109th's base of operations in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. The settlement is a former U.S. Air Force Base that was turned over to Denmark and now is a hub of commercial transportation, by Greenland standards. During the summer, the 109th and a Greenlandic government-run logistics agency, Kangerlussauq International Science Support (KISS), set up operations to support ice sheet research across the country.
"It is exciting to be part of the science here," Alston said." It is an incredibly important mission. This science could change the world."
Greenland is a crucial key for scientists to unlock the mysteries of global climate change, and the 109th has the only heavy-lift aircraft with skis that can reach the science camps. There are no roads linking settlements in Greenland. The only way to move material is by boat, plane or dog sled.
The Arctic and Antarctic operational missions are paid for by the science community. The National Science Foundation is a key partner in planning missions that the 109th flies. Logistics must work like clockwork, because Mother Nature and aging airplanes do not always cooperate.
"Weather and airplane readiness play huge roles," Norman said. "Healthiness of an airplane or bad weather can really screw up an entire week."
The maintenance crews were busy during the week according to Norman, fixing multiple problems, including changing an engine on one plane.
"They really did a great job," he said. "I had a plan when we came up here last week. I have to say that plan changed this week, but I still feel we accomplished our goals."
For more pictures of Alston in Greenland click below.