Operation Christmas Drop shoves off for the mission
By Senior Airman Shane Dunaway, 36th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 16, 2009
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- More than 12 months of preparation have gone into ensuring Operation Christmas Drop's four-day air drop mission goes smoothly, with countless fundraiser and many drop-off points made available to those wishing to donate supplies and help support Guam's island neighbors in the Marianas, Carolines, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and the Federal States of Micronesia.
Operation Christmas Drop's mission officially kicked off with a Push Ceremony held Dec. 15 at 9 a.m. in Hangar 6. Team Andersen members and representatives from the local community were on hand to assist in loading boxes onto a C-130H aircraft, in essence preparing the first sortie's load of donations for delivery.
"For most of us Christmas falls on specific days in our calendar, but this year, on 51 islands, Christmas will begin as it has for over half a century, when you, the [U.S.] Air Force show up carrying Santa in the Sky," said Bill Hagen, long-time volunteer and supporter of Operation Christmas Drop.
This is the 58th consecutive year that Operation Christmas Drop missions will fly, making Operation Christmas Drop the longest-running airdrop mission in Air Force history. The concept of Operation Christmas Drop began in 1952 when locals on the island of Kapingamarangi waved to the crew of a WB-50 flying overhead. In the spirit of the holiday season, the crew gathered what they could, packed it into a canister, attached a parachute and dropped the goods to the islanders.
"Islanders affected by the drops like to say that their holiday season doesn't begin until they receive their visit from the U.S. Air Force," said Capt. George Bell, 734th Air Mobility Squadron. "Each drop is certainly a group effort with volunteers and donations coming from across Guam to be packaged and built by members of Andersen AFB and Navy and then dropped by C-130 crews from Yokota AB. Even though the number of drops this year will not break last year's record, the amount of donations and volunteer hours grow every year."
Throughout the year, volunteers from organizations island-wide step up to the plate and donate, ensuring neighboring islands experience a wonderful holiday and building a rapport with those who have less.
Long before the C-130s soared into the skies to execute Operation Christmas Drop, Airmen and volunteers came together for several packs to prepare each box to be dropped. The packs took place on Nov. 21 and Dec. 5 this year with more than 100 Airmen, civilians, contractors and other volunteers helping out.
During the four days of Operation Christmas Drop, C-130s will fly 12 sorties, offloading more than 12 tons of cargo to at least 51 islands covering a geographic area more than 1.8 million square miles.
"I am proud to be a part of the 58th year of Christmas drops," said Capt. Ryan Finlayson, 36th Airlift Squadron lead operations planner for Operation Christmas Drop. "Christmas drops have been going on since 1952, which was well before I was born. I hope it continues long after I'm gone. I am honored to carry on such a long-lasting tradition."
Operation Christmas Drop is a non-profit organization powered by Team Andersen volunteers and the local community that have to date dropped over 800,000 pounds of goods throughout the islands since Operation Christmas Drop inception.
"The greatest thing about Operation Christmas Drop is how easily it affects lives for the better," Captain Bell said. "It's great that we can exercise our global reach and help almost 35,000 people throughout the Pacific every year."