Antarctic operation a breeze

COVID-19 didn’t stop personnel from the mobile air loading team from successfully completing Operation Southern Discovery in Antarctica.

CAPTION: Sergeant Michelle Espley from No. 23 Squadron at the Antarctic Circle sign during Operation Southern Discovery.

The team, from the combat support group, flies cargo missions from Hobart to Antarctica on a C-17A Globemaster during the Austral summer period from November to March each year.

Team members transport a range of equipment and goods from large-scale heavy scientific and operational equipment to food supplies, all in support of Australia’s Antarctic program.

Border restrictions meant members had to quarantine at Anglesea Barracks two weeks before starting load preparations.

Leading Aircraftwoman Bonnie Grynglas said she helped transport personnel between the barracks and Hobart Airport.

“We took every precaution to ensure that COVID-19 would not enter Antarctica by socially distancing and wearing masks,” Leading Aircraftwoman Grynglas said.

Sergeant Michelle Espley, from No. 23 Squadron, was stationed at Casey Station in Antarctica for 13 days.

She said the reality on the ground in Antarctica was different but a great experience.

“Our days were mostly spent preparing cargo for return to Australia,” Sergeant Espley said.

“We inspected cargo for any dangerous goods, sorting and restraining the cargo onto Aircraft pallets.

“Strict social-distancing requirements meant that we could not socialise as usual with the Casey Station crew but the chance to work in Antarctica was still remarkable.

“The landscape was beautiful, the accommodation was impressive and the food was delicious. The people were also a pleasure to be around and I feel extremely lucky to have had this opportunity.”

With missions finished for the 2020-21 summer season, No. 29 Squadron will begin preparing for more missions at the end of 2021.

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