SCOTIA, N.Y. (AP) — The first group of hundreds of Air National Guard members deployed on an annual South Pole mission has returned to their upstate New York base.

The New York National Guard says 22 airmen with the 109th Airlift Wing arrived Wednesday morning at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Schenectady County. They landed aboard a C-17 Globemaster cargo plane assigned to the Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing based in Newburgh in the Hudson Valley.

Each fall some 300-plus members of the 109th deploy to McMurdo Station in Antarctica as part of Operation Deep Freeze, a five-month mission providing support to U.S. research efforts there.

Since October the unit has flown 2.7 million pounds of cargo and 135,000 gallons of fuel aboard ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft to research stations across Antarctica.