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Cold weather work

BALTIMORE -- While Maryland has a colder than normal December, Master Sgt. Dwayne Miller was working in even colder temperatures near the South Pole.

Sergeant Miller, an air transportation worker with the 175th Logistic Readiness Squadron, spent a month in Antarctica assigned to work OPERATION DEEP FREEZE.

This is his second deployment with 109th Wing from Scotia, N.Y. The Air National Guards 109th Wing is the sole unit that operates specially equipped LC-130s with ski landing gear to operate on snow and ice packed runways. He routinely worked in temperatures that were measured in single digits.

Part of his daily responsibilities included inspecting cargo for safety and the inspection of air drop loads. Typically, supplies would come in on C-17s to McMurdo Station and then LC-130s would distribute the supplies for on continent resupply.

One of his first tasks during the deployment was inspecting the 14 fuel bundles for emergency resupply to any camp. These bundles were pallets loaded with 55-gallon drums of fuel. Sergeant Miller inspected the pallets and rigging to make sure they were ready to go at a moment's notice. Much like fine sand gets into everything in a dessert environment; the snow does the same thing in Antarctica.  Keeping the snow out of the equipment and pallets was an ongoing challenge.  A challenge Sergeant miller and his team always met. 

Of the approximately 1,200 people carrying out the mission on the continent of Antarctica, about 120 are military. The military handled most of the logistics. Civilians employees would come to Sergeant Miller to inspect the loads they built to be shipped out. He would inspect their cargo, review load plans and inspect for hazards.

Sergeant Miller talked about the relationships he built there. "Everyone worked close together," he said.

Although it was cold, it was not dark. This was Antarctica's summer. The last sunset was in October and would not set again till February 21. His way of telling night from day was less people moving about.

Sergeant Miller took one trip to the South Pole. He visited the ceremonial pole, with its barbershop stripes. He recalls it as being very flat, and very cold, -42 degrees.

He recalled that every year the true South Pole is measured and a new stake is driven in. The stakes are spread out as the ice has been creeping.