By Phil Jacobsen, McMurdo correspondent
Posted May 20, 2013
On Tuesday, April 16,the rumors around the dinner table started humming. The people in Fleet Operations knew they had a meeting first thing in the morning to discuss the white ice runway at Pegasus Airfield
The ice runway? What was there to discuss? The ice runway is supposed to remain buried until August when we normally get our next flight.
The next day it all made sense. One of our community members needed to leave due to a medical emergency, and he needed to leave quickly.
Photo Courtesy: Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica
A C-17 Globemaster III crew from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., alongside aeromedical evacuation and critical care air transport team members, safely evacuate a patient from McMurdo Station, on April 22.
The ice runway was covered in up to 10 inches of compacted snow. The electricians would need to hook up power; the fuelies would need to build a fuel pit. Other tasks included setting up lights for the runway, heat for the buildings and many other things to ensure the runway was safe for a plane to land at the start of our winter.
For many, their normal 10-hour shift became around-the-clock 12-hour shifts. The galley, once a buzz with rumors of a medevac, was now staying open later to feed those who were working atypical winter hours.
The weather was the only entity in McMurdo Station
that did not cooperate with our need to get this runway running. The temperatures were consistently below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
It was projected to take more than a week before the Air Force
could land a C-17 Globemaster III
. Instead, thanks to the hard work of everyone in McMurdo, the plane arrived on Monday, April 22.
Taking only six days to turn a snowfield into an Air Force-ready runway speaks for itself. We are a community dependent only on each other right now, and when our mettle was tested, we came together for one of our own.
And we had to do it all over again in May when a second medical evacuation occurred.