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Thule Air Base continues Operation Boxtop support

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland – A Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and two C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 8th Wing Canadian Forces Base out of Trenton, Canada, are parked on the ramp at Thule Air Base April 25. The aircraft are set to carry cargo to resupply Canadian Forces Station Alert with fuel and other supplies to get them through the harsh Arctic winter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. David Buchanan)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland – A Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and two C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 8th Wing Canadian Forces Base out of Trenton, Canada, are parked on the ramp at Thule Air Base April 25. The aircraft are set to carry cargo to resupply Canadian Forces Station Alert with fuel and other supplies to get them through the harsh Arctic winter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. David Buchanan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- At the northernmost permanently inhabited place on earth, approximately 508 miles from the North Pole, more than 60 personnel conduct signals intelligence at Canadian Forces Station Alert, and its detachment stations.

By nature of their austere geographical location and with limited access during the year, the station requires a large semiannual resupply mission to get them through the harsh Greenland winters and operate at full capability to complete their mission.

Each year, two operations, titled Operation Boxtop 1 and Operation Boxtop 2, are conducted from Thule Air Base, Greenland, with the primary mission of delivering ultra-low sulfur diesel, called JP-8 fuel, and mobile support equipment. This year, a Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 8th Wing Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Canada, are carrying the cargo to resupply CFS Alert with support from the 821st Mission Support Group at Thule AB.

Boxtop 1, which is typically conducted during the April timeframe, includes the "wet lift" delivery of JP-8 fuel for domestic use in generators for heating and power. Approximately 2.2 million liters are delivered annually, and 75 percent is delivered during Boxtop 1.

Typically, the operation is carried out completely by C-130J aircraft. This year, however, Boxtop is employing a C-17. Carrying the bulk of the "wet lift," the C-17 delivers approximately 50,000 liters of fuel per trip, meaning the aircraft takes many trips from Thule AB to CFS Alert.

Making sure the aircraft turn-around is as efficient as possible, air traffic controllers with the 821st SPTS help guarantee time-on-target arrival and departure times.

"The Reykjavik Oceanic Area Control Center, Iceland, and Air Force personnel reserved specific airways and altitudes for the Boxtop aircraft," said Master Sgt. Karen Cullen, 821st Support Squadron air traffic control complex chief controller. "This eliminates the need for extra coordination during the peak traffic times."

Air traffic controllers with the 821st SPTS also safely launch and recover the aircraft, make sure transient services are provided for, and ensure radar separation services from other aircraft operations within Thule AB's control area.

The Canadian Department of National Defense, the Canadian Joint Operations Command and 1st Canadian Air Division also provide oversight for the joint operation encompassing many international partners.

"Operation Boxtop is truly a joint effort by the Air Force and her allies," said Cullen. "Working collectively with the Greenlandic, the Royal Danish Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force, it is an international collaboration that ensures mission success."

According to Cullen, understanding that there is no one part of the operation that is more important helps all forces operate with maximum effectiveness.

"We consider ourselves fortunate to be in a position to support our allies in their resupply of their forward operating stations," said Cullen. "Operations such as these allow each nationality involved to learn something from each other and embrace cultural differences."

(Editor's note: Tech Sgt. David Buchanan and Capt. Matthew Francom with the 821st SPTS contributed to this story.)

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui