‘Chilling’ stories of Antarctic service

Borgerding served as an U.S. Navy aircraft mechanic in the early 90s

By Melanie Yingst - myingst@civitasmedia.com



MIAMI COUNTY — You’ll never hear Roger Borgerding complain about Ohio’s winter weather.

The Troy native shared stories from his Navy service which sent him to Antarctica in the early 1990s last Thursday as part of the Waco Historical Society’s guest lecture series sponsored by DP&L.

The Upper Valley Career Center aerospace occupations instructor served as an aircraft mechanic in Antarctica from 1990 to 1994. The U.S. Navy served Borgerding “cool orders” to serve three “summer” tours and three winter fly-ins in Antarctica where his primary duties were to maintain the LC-130 aircraft engines and systems.

Borgerding explained how helicopters were like “taxis” on the ice-and-snow-covered continent. The helicopter taxis shuttled the crew around the island of ice for various work orders.

Borgerding said how he met many “cool” people from around the world who were stationed to conduct research on the earth’s south pole. Experiments included measuring the glaciers’ activities, recovering dinosaur remains and tracking carbon monoxide levels found in the polar ice cap.

Borgerding told chilling stories regarding the various arctic temperatures, ranging from a balmy negative 20 degrees down to negative 100 below during “herbies” or blizzard-on-steroids-like conditions. Those weather conditions meant many aircraft engines’ changes and maintenance were completed while the aircraft’s two out of three engines were still running.

“We learned how to get our job done very, very fast,” Borgerding said. One “herbie” trapped his crew onboard an aircraft for three days before they were able to safely go back to their quarters.

The arctic cold meant pilots rarely shut down engines in order to keep the chances of them freezing to a minimum.

“The propellers were always spinning, so when you are coming off the airplane there was something in place to make sure you took a right off the aircraft. If you took a left, you got a haircut or a splitting headache,” he said.

Borgerding explained how world politics were not part of the Antarctic climate. He shared pictures of antiquated Russian equipment on the base, noting Russians had a great sense of humor.

Borgerding said it wasn’t uncommon for their living quarters, a mobile home trailer with a restaurant-grade insulated door, would often be blown over on its side. He said the winds were so strong, they had to make due with bunk beds that would turn into lofts with whichever way the wind blew that day.

Borgerding also shared that Antarctic safety measures included using colored ropes to navigate around the base.

“You actually latch on to the rope because these ‘herbies’ are so powerful with their 100-mile-per-hour winds,” Borgerding said. “Who in their right mind would go out there in 100-mile-per-hour winds that are already below zero? You’ve got to be insane. I’m the new guy, and we’ve got to go down to the chow hall, so we latch on and make our way out. When I walked in the chow hall, it was packed like this room. You do what you got to do down there.”

While Borgerding is usually the unique veteran in the room, four other attendees shared how they, too, had served in some capacity in Antarctica. In fact, Borgerding’s neighbor Sterkel Coyne, of Piqua, trekked 2,700 miles across the southern continent.

Borgerding entered into the U.S Navy in 1985. He worked on F-14 Tomcats with VF-51 at NAS Miramar CA. In late 1985, Richard found himself on the set for the movie “Top Gun.” With his job as an F-14 plane captain, Borgerding assisted with installing the movie cameras onto the aircraft and ensured the Tomcats were ready to fly. He was also used as in extra in the movie. You can see him chalking the wheels in the opening scene of the movie.

Borgerding served on-board the U.S.S Carl Vinson and completed two West Pacs, and one Rim Pac cruises. In 1989, he served as an in-flight technician on the P-3 Orion patrol aircraft for a year, then transferred to VXE-6 Antarctic squadron.

Borgerding left the Navy in 1995 to work at Delta Airlines in Nashville. He was laid off in 1998 and joined the Air National Guard. He continued working on C-130s then F-16 and retired in 2008.

Borgerding also teaches at the Waco Historical Society and Learning Center’s youth aviation camps. For more information about the society’s lecture series and other activities, visit www.wacoairmuseum.org.

Borgerding served as an U.S. Navy aircraft mechanic in the early 90s

By Melanie Yingst


Follow Melanie Yingst on Twitter @Troydailynews

Follow Melanie Yingst on Twitter @Troydailynews