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Deep Freeze

A picture of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Greg Mascaro posing for a photo at the South Pole.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Greg Mascaro from the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing poses for a photo at the South Pole, Antarctica, on Jan. 6, 2013. Mascaro is deployed as a Safety Manager with the 109th Air Wing, New York Air National Guard, as part of Operation Deep Freeze, a joint operation between the military and the National Science Foundation. LC-130's from the 109th are specially modified with skis and rocket assisted takeoff, and transport supplies to remote science outposts. (Courtesy photo)

SOUTH POLE, ANTARCTICA -- While we dealt with inches of snow here in New Jersey courtesy of winter storm Hercules, the 177th Fighter Wing's own Tech. Sgt. Greg Mascaro has been measuring snow in feet at the bottom of the world. Mascaro, a Safety manager who works at Warren Grove Gunnery Range, is currently deployed as part of Operation Deep Freeze, a joint mission that sees the LC-130's from the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing transporting supplies to remote science outposts in Antarctica.

"The most challenging aspect is dealing with the weather," said Mascaro. "Warmer days pose a challenge for the ice runway. The slushy conditions make it very difficult for the planes to get airborne. Colder days with high winds also have a unique challenge here. Many times planes can't take off because of the whiteout conditions."

In addition to the tough weather conditions, Mascaro deals with the difficulty of resting. "Currently, it is austral summer so the sun never sets, which makes sleeping a challenge as well."

The 109th Air Wing's unique aircraft, the U.S. military's only planes equipped with skis, have been performing this mission at the South Pole since 1999.

"The Airmen of the 109th are a very talented group of people, from those who are repairing the planes to those who are landing on nothing but ocean ice," said Mascaro. "It has been a truly rewarding experience."