Members of the 109th Airlift wing of the NY Air National Guard in Afghanistan.

Members of the 109th Airlift wing of the NY Air National Guard in Afghanistan. Photo by John McIntyre.

The multi-million dollar aircraft carries fuel, scientific equipment and most importantly, the scientists and crews themselves, as it taxis to a stop on the snow under a bright blue sky.

The 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard is the only transportation available for many of these camps, but for air crews onboard this mission, it was also on-the-job training.

As Lt. Col. George Alston, 43, unbuckles his shoulder harness from the co-pilot seat, he gives the aircraft commander in the other seat an affirmative nod. It was a smooth landing.

The Delmar resident is a LC-130 instructor pilot and chief of aircrew training for the unit. His job is to train crew members to fly in the polar regions.

“One way to describe what we do in regards to training is that we have a schoolhouse at the 109th for our LC-130 mission,” Alston said. “My job is to help run the schoolhouse.”

“Instructors like George take brand new personnel and bring them up to Air Force standards,” said Major Carlyle Norman, deployment commander for the 109th for the two-week tour in July. “The new crews have multiple hours of training. They train on the ground, then the instructors take them out and do the training in the field.”

Each crew member must have constant training.

“We have to be prepared for any mission” Alston said. “The way we do that is we train the way we fight.”

On this week, Capt. Dave Zielinski, 30, of Rexford was testing to upgrade from a basic aircraft commander for a LC-130 to a ski aircraft commander (AC). He was in Greenland for 11 days flying operational missions and training for his new position.

The pilots learn how to manage fuel, weather scenarios, cargo and – most importantly – how to run a crew.

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