Thule stocks up for long winter’s night

(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Levi Wells)
THULE AIR BASE, Greenland — The Ocean Giant waits in the bay for tanker operations to finish, while the Rising Star, the Air Force’s only pusher boat, motors through the bay. The Rising Star helped position cargo ships into and out of Thule’s port during Operation Pacer Goose, Thule’s annual resupply mission. Thule is located 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle and is home to the northernmost deep water port in the world. Both the CPO Germany and Ocean Giant had to be escorted through the ice by a Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker.

By 1st Lt. Daniel Dale

821st Support Squadron Logistics Flight commander

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland — After nine long days of severe winds and frigid temperatures, Thule Air Base concluded its annual resupply mission known as Operation Pacer Goose.

Team Thule coordinated closely with Military Sealift Command, the U.S. Naval arm of U.S. Transportation Command, to receive more than 8.4 million gallons of fuel and 2.8 million pounds of cargo at the Department of Defense’s northernmost deep water port.

The first ship in port was the CPO Germany oil tanker. It pumped a year’s supply of fuel into the bulk storage area. Before pumping the fuel, the ship had to position itself perpendicular to the pier by performing a maneuver called “Mediterranean Mooring.” The ship’s crew worked diligently with the Greenland contractor’s team to offload the fuel safely and efficiently. Together, they overcame perilous conditions, fighting off winds in excess of 55 knots.

“I boarded the tanker to watch the operation first hand with Lt. Dale and Master Sgt. Wells,” said Maj. Jeremiah Hammill, 821st Support Squadron commander. “It was freezing, but their skillful oversight ensured Thule’s mission would drive on for the next 12 months.”

The Ocean Giant freighter arrived a couple days later to deliver cargo and supplies. The cargo included provisions to sustain the base for the year, equipment for National Science Foundation projects and construction materials for Thule Consolidation, an effort to shrink the base’s footprint over the next few years.

After the work was done, the ship’s captain graciously hosted a dinner on board with base leadership and provided tours to Thule personnel.

The mission would not have succeeded without the direct support of the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker ship named CCGS Henry Larsen. The icebreaker cleared the path through iceberg filled waters, which allowed the vessels to arrive safely at Thule.

Operation Pacer Goose is one of many port operations that take place from late June to mid-September. Almost 90 percent of Thule’s annual cargo weight is offloaded during this narrow window of opportunity. The bay remains frozen solid throughout the rest of the year and additional supplies must be flown in weekly.

With the 821st Logistics Flight spearheading another successful Pacer Goose operation, Team Thule is now braced to battle the arctic storm season, extreme subzero temperatures and several months of total darkness.

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