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McChord crew makes rescue flight to South Pole for ailing researcher

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Oct. 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
October 17, 2011 5:35 pm
David Alexander/AP People disembark from a U.S. Air Force plane which is said to be carrying sick U.S. woman Renee-Nicole Douceur, a manager for research station contractor Raytheon Polar Services Co., who suffered a stroke in August at the South Pole.

A Joint Base Lewis-McChord Air Force crew made a life-saving trip to Antarctica today to rescue a researcher who reportedly suffered a stroke on the icy continent in late August.

Renee-Nicole Douceur, 58, of Seabrook., N.H., is getting medical help today. She told CBS’ Today Show she was “feeling elated” to be off the Amundsen-Scott research station and in a hospital.

Weather complications held up her rescue. So did concerns from her employer, Raytheon Polar Services, she said in her interview with CBS.

Her flight to Christchurch, New Zealand is the second medical rescue McChord-based crews have performed in Antarctica this year. The first came in late June when a McChord team rescued a sick contractor at Antarctica’s McMurdo Station. Seven McChord-based airmen received Air Medals for that risky flight.

Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle of Lewis-McChord’s 446th Reserve Airlift Wing confirmed that a crew from the base south of Tacoma made the flight. The active-duty 62nd Airlift Wing also had airmen on the rescue. Both wings are working to confirm who was on the flight so they can recognize the airmen.

Lewis-McChord’s 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings have been supplying National Science Foundation work in Antarctica for more than a decade through a mission dubbed Operation Deep Freeze. Airmen from those units fly Boeing-made C-17 Globemaster IIIs in the world’s most challenging peacetime conditions to deliver food, materials and people to McMurdo Station.

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