New York Air Guard Members Undergo Cold-Weather Training in Greenland

June 22, 2018

Twenty-five airmen with the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing spent three days learning to survive during the wing’s annual “Kool School” here on the Greenland ice cap.

The “barren land, arctic survival training,” which ran June 7 to 9, provides vital life support training to airmen who routinely operate in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Because the wing operates its LC-130 Hercules ski-equipped aircraft in the Arctic and Antarctic, wing members have to know how to survive if an aircraft is forced down.

Learning Cold-Weather Survival Skills

The students were taught how to procure water, build shelter from available materials and how to properly treat and prevent cold-weather injuries.

The school is led by a team of four survival evasion resistance and escape, or SERE specialists, who are experts in cold weather survival skills.

“The 109th has a unique mission set,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Richard, a SERE specialist with the 66th training squadron, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. “We spend about 48 to 72 hours out here [on the Greenland ice cap] teaching [the students] how to take care of themselves and find food, water and shelter.”

The students were tasked with building their own shelters out of ice, snow and scavenged materials to live in for the duration of the training.

“It’s been interesting to see the different types of shelters you can build,” said Air Force 2nd Lt. Phil Piambino, a “Kool School” student and navigator from the 109th. “You would think it’s pretty barren out here, but it’s surprising what you can use in the surrounding environment.”

Along with conducting the school, the 109th Airlift Wing continued seasonal support of the National Science Foundation in Greenland this month.

So far this year, the 109th has transported nearly 850,000 pounds of cargo, 175,000 pounds of fuel and 670 passengers to research camps across Greenland.

The ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft operated by the 109th provide transportation of fuel, supplies and passengers to remote camps on the Greenland icecap throughout the summer season.

The wing’s Greenland missions also serve as training for the support the unit provides for the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Program when it is winter in New York and summer in Antarctica.

The Greenland season for the 109th will wind down in August, with only a brief respite before the focus shifts to Antarctica for the southern hemisphere summer.