HomeNewsArticle Display

Operation Christmas Drop 2016

Airman 1st Class Alejandra Vargas, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules loadmaster, pushes a bundle during Operation Christmas Drop at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2016. Australian and Japanese aircrews joined U.S. Airmen to execute the Humanitarian Aid/Disaster Relief training event where C-130 aircrews perform low-cost, low-altitude airdrops to drop zones while providing critical supplies to 56 islands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Delano Scott/Released)

Airman 1st Class Alejandra Vargas, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules loadmaster, pushes a bundle during Operation Christmas Drop at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2016. Australian and Japanese aircrews joined U.S. Airmen to execute the Humanitarian Aid/Disaster Relief training event where C-130 aircrews perform low-cost, low-altitude airdrops to drop zones while providing critical supplies to 56 islands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Delano Scott/Released)

Capt. Darryl Lawlor, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules navigator, observes the skies during Operation Christmas Drop 2016 over remote Micronesian islands, Dec. 6, 2016. This year marks 65 years of Operation Christmas Drop which provides joint airlift training opportunities for both peace and wartime efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Delano Scott/Released)

Capt. Darryl Lawlor, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules navigator, observes the skies during Operation Christmas Drop 2016 over remote Micronesian islands, Dec. 6, 2016. This year marks 65 years of Operation Christmas Drop which provides joint airlift training opportunities for both peace and wartime efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Delano Scott/Released)

Capt. Darryl Lawlor, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules navigator, operates navigation instruments during Operation Christmas Drop over remote Micronesian islands, Dec. 5, 2016. Operation Christmas Drop is a training mission which helps the 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota AB, Japan, along with Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force, to maintain and develop combat readiness through sustainable aircraft generation/recovery while practicing low-cost, low-altitude airdrops. (U.S. Air Force (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Delano Scott/Released)

Capt. Darryl Lawlor, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules navigator, operates navigation instruments during Operation Christmas Drop over remote Micronesian islands, Dec. 5, 2016. Operation Christmas Drop is a training mission which helps the 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota AB, Japan, along with Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force, to maintain and develop combat readiness through sustainable aircraft generation/recovery while practicing low-cost, low-altitude airdrops. (U.S. Air Force (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Delano Scott/Released)

A C-130 Hercules crew from the 36th Airlift Squadron prepares for an airdrop mission during Operation Christmas Drop at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2016. The airdrop missions will allow aircrews to practice essential combat skills and demonstrate commitment across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, while coming together to lend a helping hand to Guam's island neighbors in Micronesia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Delano Scott/Released)

A C-130 Hercules crew from the 36th Airlift Squadron prepares for an airdrop mission during Operation Christmas Drop at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2016. The airdrop missions will allow aircrews to practice essential combat skills and demonstrate commitment across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, while coming together to lend a helping hand to Guam's island neighbors in Micronesia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Delano Scott/Released)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, GUAM -- This is it. Years of training, months of planning, days of briefings and hours of flight have lead to this single moment. One mistake could mean that a remote island does not receive supplies that they’d been looking forward to since last year. The pilots, engineer, loadmaster, each crewmember of the C-130 Hercules play an important role in delivering the bundle. However, airlift during Operation Christmas Drop 2016 could not be accomplished without the C-130H navigator.

The navigator drives the C-130H mission here at Operation Christmas Drop. Utilizing the Self Contained Navigation System, which houses the waypoints of different locations the aircraft is flying to, navigators tell the pilots where to fly the plane. The SCNS also contains ballistic data that helps the navigators to decide when a bundle should leave the aircraft.

At Christmas Drop, C-130Hs utilize drops zones that that are built on the fly by the navigator. Normally, the navigator has a survey that tells them the exact coordinates of where to drop while also having someone on the ground measuring the wind. However, at Christmas Drop, crewmembers do not have access to these luxuries. When delivering bundles to remote Micronesians, they have to do it all on the fly.

“Situations like these legitimize the training we do throughout the year,” said Capt. David Lynn, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130H navigator. “It’s the ultimate test of job knowledge. Do you know how to analyze the winds? Can you look outside and use visual references and not rely on the computer? These are some of the questions you’ll have to ask and answer yourself. When we do a lot of our training, it’s about trying to hit a dot on the ground. Here, it’s about getting the supplies to the people.”

For navigators, Christmas Drop’s unique training opportunity also presents a noteworthy challenge that appears in the final minute before a drop. With an array of different factors impacting the bundle, including wind speed and ballistic effects of parachutes coming down to the ground, ensuring that the drop is precise and retrievable by the islanders is not small tasking.

“Everything has to be perfect,” said Capt. Darryl Lawyor, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130H navigator. “Ensuring precision each and every time we drop is something I’m confident our guys are able to accomplish and that’s something I take pride in. I am grateful that I can rely on everyone else on my team to make my job successful.”

This Christmas Drop is particularly special for navigators as next year, a new team will of Yokota C-130J Super Hercules will be taking the H-model’s place. As the J-model lacks the need for a navigator, this means that this Christmas Drop will be their last. Whether it’s other navigator centric aircraft like the RC or KC-135, or becoming mission planners on the ground, Yokota’s transition to the J-model offers navigators a variety of different opportunities to continue to serve. However, for Lynn, the memories of being a H-model navigator will not be soon forgotten.

“This being the last C-130H Christmas Drop breaks my heart,” Lynn said. “I love being a C-130H navigator. While there are opportunities to remain a C-130H navigator either in the Guard or Reserve, doing this job here at Yokota is the best. I wish other people could continue to have the experienced I’ve had because delivering humanitarian aid is the most rewarding feeling I’ve experienced as a navigator.”