ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --
Military members from the U.S. Air Force, Coast Guard and Navy, with international support from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force are joining forces to airdrop and deliver donated toys, clothes, food items and other necessities to remote islands across the Pacific as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2016.
The annual training mission officially kicked off during a ceremony Dec. 6 at Andersen where military leaders across the island pushed the first pallet of donated goods into a C-130 Hercules.
“I’m proud that Andersen is hosting Operation Christmas Drop,” said Brig. Gen. Douglas Cox, 36th Wing commander. “I am happy to welcome our partners from Australia and Japan, it is wonderful to have you with us this holiday season.”
C-130s from the RAAF, JASDF and the 36th Airlift Squadron will fly over the Pacific to airdrop goods to the islanders. More than 45 Airmen are participating from both partner-nation forces.
Sixty-five years in the running, Christmas Drop is the Department of Defense’s longest-running humanitarian airlift operation. The tradition began during the 1952 Christmas season when a B-29 Superfortress aircrew saw islanders waving at them from the island of Kapingamarangi, 3,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. In the spirit of Christmas the aircrew dropped a bundle of supplies attached to a parachute to the islanders below, giving the operation its name. This year brings together three nations, three corporate sponsors and three U.S. military branches. Today, air drop operations include more than 50 islands and thousands of people.
“It feels great to give back no matter what background you come from,” said Capt. Aaron Bowens from the 734th Air Mobility Squadron and Operation Christmas Drop organizer. “It’s also a great training opportunity because everything we do now for the drops is useful in the real world.”
Bowens said more than 11 months of planning and preparing went into Christmas drop. The Operation Christmas Drop volunteers at Andersen and Yokota raised more than $52,000 from fundraisers and collected more than $20,000 in donated goods to aid in the mission.
Military and civilian volunteers loaded 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of clothes, rice, fishhooks and other necessities into large-capacity boxes, before Airmen weighed and secured the boxes in preparation for delivery.
Twenty-two sorties are scheduled to be flown covering more than 50 islands where 140 boxes of donated goods will be dropped.