WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (NNS) -- Fifty Sailors from Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) active duty battalion Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 1 (NCHB 1) and two reserve component Sailors from both Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 8 (NCHB 8) and 10 (NCHB 10), departed Williamsburg, Cheatham Annex Jan. 13, in support of the National Science Foundation Operation Deep Freeze 2016 (ODF'16).
The Sailors will deploy as part of ODF'16, the military logistical-support component of the Antarctic Program.
ODF is unlike any other U.S. military operation. It is one of the military's most difficult peacetime missions due to the harsh Antarctic environment. The U.S. military is uniquely equipped and trained to operate in such extreme climates.
NCHB 1, the only Navy detachment supporting the research, will arrive at Ross Island, Antarctica, on or about Jan. 17 and make port at NSF's McMurdo Station, the southern-most navigable harbor in the world.
Once there, Navy cargo handlers will meet the Military Sealift Command-chartered ship MV Ocean Giant, to offload approximately 20 million pounds of fresh supplies to support the scientists and researchers living year-round in the brutal environment. Cargo handlers will work around the clock for seven to 10 days in the continuous sunlight of the Antarctic summer.
"The conditions that we are working in are extremely dangerous and people are not used to working in the cold so it is important to have someone with experience and that understands the unique factors and watch out for everyone's safety while still tackling the mission," said Chief Boatswain's Mate Cliff Brown. "It is an honor to be able to go down there with a bunch of Sailors who have never experienced this type of mission before."
Despite working 12-hour shifts in the harshest conditions, Sailors compete for the chance to go.
"It seemed interesting, an opportunity; I don't know too many people that can say they have been to Antarctica," said Equipment Operator 3rd Class Robert Newton, a reserve component Sailor with NCHB 10.
The Navy has supported expeditions to Antarctica for more than a half century. Their specialized training and equipment continue to make them ideal for the job.
"We are good stewards of their cargo because we know that many of these scientists have spent their lives working on their projects and hopefully their research will make our overall lives better," said Brown.
Once the fresh supplies are offloaded, the previous year's trash is hauled aboard the ships. By international agreement, researchers must save and export all waste to preserve the pristine polar environment.
The return shipment includes ice core samples that will provide scientists studying global climate change with information about the composition of the atmosphere hundreds of thousands of years ago.
NCHB 1 is the Navy's only active duty Navy cargo handling battalion and operates in concert with NAVELSG's six reserve cargo handling battalions. Homeported in Williamsburg with forward-deployed detachments, NAVELSG provides Sailors with the knowledge and skills needed to support the fleet's surface and air-handling missions. More than 100 Sailors and civilians work hand in hand with the fleet and are dedicated to ensuring training is current and well executed on behalf of 2,800 active-duty and reserve Sailors in the administration, logistics and training of their active and reserve components.
For more news from Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group, visit www.navy.mil/local/nelsf/