23 January 2013
NZ Army Staff Sergeant Deon McKenzie preparing a pipe for welding as part of the work being conducted on the vital fuel pipeline between McMurdo Station and Scott Base.
For 42 year old Army Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Deon McKenzie working around Scott Base and McMurdo Station in Antarctica over summer is a truly awesome opportunity.
SSGT McKenzie, who grew up in Masterton and attended Makoura College, joined the NZ Army in 1990.
"I joined the Army straight from school as I had always wanted to be in the Army from when I was quite young," SSGT McKenzie said.
Back in New Zealand SSGT McKenzie is based at Linton as part of 2 Workshops Regiment and supervises the maintenance fitters and armourers.
SSGT McKenzie is in Antarctica as part of a Light Engineering team of 17 personnel performing a range of facilities maintenance tasks at McMurdo Station over a two month period in January/February. Tasks performed by the team include building a Bailey bridge, preparing and painting the chapel, welding work on the fuel pipeline and demolition work to allow the refurbishment of one of the dormitory blocks.
The 100 foot Bailey bridge took three days to construct and was eased out over the sea ice to a specially built ice pier. The pier will be used to offload cargo from an icebreaker when it arrives in mid February. The annual supply ship offload involves personnel working around the clock in 24 hour daylight and freezing temperatures to unload shipping containers and move cargo to McMurdo Station and Scott Base.
"This is my first time in Antarctica," said SSGT McKenzie, "Everyday here is awesome. I could easily stay here for the winter rotation."
SSGT McKenzie has deployed to a number of places over the years including Bosnia, East Timor and Afghanistan.
"I don’t find it too cold here, we had colder days when we were in Bosnia."
Around 200 Defence Force personnel will support the mission at various stages this season and the mission will peak in February with the deployment of the Ship Offload and Driver Support Teams. Throughout the season the tri-Service Scott Base Support Team provide communications, plant operations, cargo handling and operations scheduling support.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force provides a number of C-130 and B757 flights moving supplies and personnel, an Airdrop Rigging Team assists with a C-17 training drop, a small number of personnel support the US Air National Guard with maintenance tasks, and the Harewood Terminal Team in Christchurch are kept busy throughout the season. The Air Force also provides emergency recovery and search and rescue standby for US aircraft operations.
The Light Engineering Team, made up of Army personnel from 1 (NZ) Brigade - 2 Engineer Regiment and Combat Service Support units, will return to New Zealand around 24 February.
For more information, contact Defence Communications Group on 021 487 980.