Iceman Team supports Coast Guard mission to Arctic

by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Wicker
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska  — A U.S. Coast Guard HC-130H Hercules aircraft and crew landed at Eielson recently as part of a flying mission to and above the Arctic Circle.

The crew of eight, along with eight civilian scientists, arrived the first week of RED FLAG-Alaska 13-3 operations. Their mission: to fly north, perform an air drop of atmospheric and environmental measuring instruments, collect the data, and return home.

“Generally, when we land at Eielson, we are in the process of flying a mission beyond the Arctic Circle,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jesse Hyles, C-130 pilot and engineering officer, Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. “Kodiak is 900 miles south of Barrow and that is a long day if we fly there and back nonstop, let alone further north.”

The Coast Guard has three Arctic strategy objectives, Hyles said. Two of those objectives, to improve awareness and broaden partnerships, are met when pilots and maintenance personnel make Eielson their base of operations during long missions to the Northern-most regions of Alaska.

Coast Guard aircrews often assist studies and research projects of various organizations, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Washington, in collecting data.

“We provide a lot of support to members of the scientific community,” said Hyles. “This particular mission we carried and dropped various atmospheric measuring instruments like sondes, buoys and probes all designed to transmit data back to the aircraft or to a satellite. They measure values such as air temperature, wind velocity, humidity, water temperature, density and velocity.”

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryan Ranstead, aviation maintenance technician, said Icemen made their stay at Eielson a breeze.

Iceman Team supports Coast Guard mission to Arctic

An aviation maintenance technician signals to pilots as they perform a low-speed ground idle engine run to test repairs to an engine Aug. 15, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Peter Reft) Click the photo for more

“On this mission I acted as the drop master, so I was responsible for delivering the equipment to its drop location from inside the aircraft,” he said. “This was the first time the Coast Guard has dropped this kind of large ocean water temperature monitor, so we brought extra people and worked long hours.”

While Eielson serves as a key location for refueling and crew rest, the base also provides maintenance assistance and aircraft ramp parking, when needed. During this trip, the C-130 had some engine trouble that required the use of a crane and a generator.

“We had to replace one engine,” Ranstead said. “Another C-130 brought us a replacement engine, propeller, hoists and some tools. After we had that, we worked for 15 hours to fix it.”

The aircrew of eight worked into the night to repair the engine and get the C-130 air ready.

“Eielson gave us access to maintenance equipment; personnel assistance and continued parking space that enabled us to make the fix and complete our mission safely and effectively. We tend to do things a little differently than the Air Force, but we still work together very well and we had everything we needed.

“Additionally, the transient alert shop was a tremendous help coordinating various things for us even though it is not really their job to do that,” Hyles said. “They helped anyway and we are very grateful for it.”

While Eielson maintains a busy schedule every day during RF-A, the base continued to support the Coast Guard to ensure Arctic mission success.

“Even with RF-A going on around us, we were able to refuel and repair with no delays,” Hyles said. “We base out of Eielson as part of a broadening partnership between the Coast Guard and the Air Force. This mission was really smooth, with Airmen providing everything we needed.”

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