CHIRSTCHURCH, New Zealand -- Known as the gateway to Antarctica, the city of Christchurch, New Zealand has been a central stopping point for many Antarctic expeditions and adventures.
The U.S. Antarctic Program, managed by the National Science Foundation, has been deploying scientific teams through Christchurch for more than 50 years with the support of Operation Deep Freeze, the Defense Department component of the USAP.
In honor of the upcoming Antarctic research season, the biannual New Zealand IceFest -- which helps recognize Antarctica's significance on a global stage -- is conducted from Sept. 27 through Oct. 12.
"The New Zealand IceFest celebrates our city's special connection with Antarctica," said Lianne Dalziel, the mayor. "It is a relationship which is just as meaningful now as it was last century."
As part of that celebration more than 35 Airmen from the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings participated in the one-day USAP Air Day, Oct. 5, showcasing the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that is assigned to ODF.
"It is extremely important for us to show our good will to communities within New Zealand," said Lt. Col. Tim Davis, the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron director of operations and a 728th Airlift Squadron chief pilot. "The teamwork between the United States, the New Zealand government and the U.S. Antarctic program is showcased throughout this month long event, but today gives us a chance to show the community the airlift capabilities of the C-17."
The event started at 10 a.m., local time, and each half hour an expected 600 people were allowed access to the Christchurch tarmac to see the McChord C-17, a New Zealand C-130 Hercules and an Airbus aircraft. After six hours of operations, more than 7,000 people had visited the tarmac.
"This event was a very positive and motivating event," said Chief Master Sgt. Jim Masura, the 304th AES superintendent and 97th AS resource manager. "Events like this help show our community what we do and it keeps the community on our side."
This was the second time in three years that the C-17 aircraft was showcased allowing the New Zealand community members the opportunity to visit with the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Airmen and to see the aircraft up close and personal.
"This is truly amazing and I am very surprised with the size of your aircraft," said Andrew Thomason, a Christchurch native and visitor to the USAP Air Day event. "This was our first time coming and we were excited to learn about the airdrops conducted by this aircraft."
Thomason's 7-years-old son, Kadin, said he was amazed by the "comfy seats" and was excited he got the opportunity to spend some time on the aircraft.
The event was just as exciting for the Airmen as it was for the local community.
"This is my first time to New Zealand and my first TDY and I have been looking forward to this trip," said Senior Airman Jessica Rowe, a 304th EAS and a 62nd Maintenance squadron hydraulics journeyman. "It was fun answering questions and interacting with the local community and I am proud to be part of this event."
Operations for ODF commenced Sept. 29, when the U.S. military kicked off the 2014-2015 season and will continue through early spring of 2015.