CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Lou Sanson, Antarctica New Zealand Director, hands Lt. Col. Jim McGann, 62nd Operations Support Squadron C-17 Globemaster III pilot and Operation Deep Freeze Commander, a Maori Warrior Chief’s weapon (signifying leadership) during a ceremony where Col. McGann received the Christchurch Civic Award on Sept. 26. Colonel McGann, a 12-year veteran of Operation Deep Freeze missions is the first American to receive the Christchurch Civic Award. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – Fresh off the successful night-time landing of a C-17 Globemaster III on the cold Antarctica ice, a 12-year veteran of Operation Deep Freeze missions has become the first American to receive the Christchurch Civic Award.
Lt. Col. Jim McGann, 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander, received the award from Christchurch, New Zealand, Mayor Bob Parker Sept. 26 during the opening ceremonies of the Christchurch Antarctic Festival. The week-long festival celebrates Christchurch’s close relationship with science programs in Antarctica and signifies the start of another season of scientific research there.
Colonel McGann, who is permanently assigned to the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., leads C-17 operations in support of Operation Deep Freeze. The award recognizes the colonel’s long-standing relationship with Christchurch, from which much of the Defense Department support to the U.S. Antarctic Program is staged.
Shirley Johnson, Civic and International Relations Manager for the Christchurch city council, said presenting the award to Colonel McGann was a way to thank the American scientific programs and related support activities for all they contribute to the city.
“Jim is one of those people who, despite a hectic schedule, has always had time to help others,” Ms. Johnson said. “Whether it be charity work or just making extra time for new pilots in training, he seems to pick up the extra work with a grin and legendary humor.”
The award’s narrative honored Colonel McGann for his contributions to the Operation Deep Freeze mission, to include flying more than 60 missions to Antarctica that included the first C-17 airdrop on the South Pole and the first night-time landing on Antarctica using night-vision goggles.
The city also recognized Colonel McGann’s off-duty contributions to the local community. He and his squadron regularly raise funds for local charities, donating thousands of dollars to Christchurch organizations.
The award was especially meaningful, as Colonel McGann is the first American to receive the honor. The award generally celebrates the work of Christchurch residents, but in exceptional circumstances may be made to a non-resident, if their work has been done in Christchurch and benefited the city.
At the award presentation, Colonel McGann was also presented with a Maori chief’s weapon known as a Patu, and a Maori pendant blessed by the Maori chief who presides over the Christchurch area.
Operation Deep Freeze is commanded by U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica. Headquartered at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, and led by 13th Air Force, JTF SFA’s mission is to provide air- and sealift support to the National Science Foundation and U.S. Antarctic Program.