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Holiday spirit spreads through Operation Christmas Drop

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Veronica McMahon
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
While many children wake up each year to Christmas presents surrounding their chimneys, some children in the pacific islands receive their holiday surprises from something a bit different then a sleigh, and there are no reindeer or chimneys involved.

On Dec. 12, Andersen Airmen, along with the help of the 374th Airlift Wing from Yokota Air Base, Japan, began the different deliveries to more than 50 Micronesian Islands in support of the longest running humanitarian mission in the Air Force, Operation Christmas Drop.

For the 59th year in a row, island children received presents in parachute-rigged pallets from the back of a C-130 while waiting on the ground, making it possible for them to also share the holiday spirit this Christmas.

"Since it's the season of giving, family and helping out each other, what a great way to help the islands of Micronesia," said Master Sgt. John Hernandez, 44th Aerial Port Squadron air transportation and OCD participant. "It was absolutely rewarding to see islanders run to the presents. It is something I wish all people could experience."

The flights serve as a training mission for the United States Air Force and the tradition dates back to the first Operation Christmas Drop. In 1952 aircrew of a WB-29 aircraft assigned to the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, formerly assigned to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, were flying a mission south of Guam over the Micronesian island of Kapingamarangi. The aircrew saw some islanders waving to them, and the crew quickly gathered items they had on the plane, placed them in a container with a parachute attached and dropped the cargo as they circled back.

This year, along with presents, medical supplies were also airdropped to the island Pagan in support of a recent Dungue fever outbreak. Some of these islands are in remote locations, such as Pagan, and aren't able to regularly receive needed materials.

The flights between islands could take up to a few hours, but to experience the airdrop was well worth it to the aircrew and passengers.

"The men and women of the armed services do amazing things every single day, and I just witnessed one of them," said Peter Prahar, US Ambassador to the Federal States of Micronesia.

While volunteers spent months gathering and preparing supplies; in five days all the pallets were delivered to the islands.

Not just the islanders gained some holiday spirit from Operation Christmas Drop. "They are small islands and bringing a little Christmas cheer for them once a year lets them know that we know they are there and that we care," said Capt. Bryan Huffman, C-130 navigator from Yokota AB. "It was exciting to drop Christmas presents and hopefully some supplies to people that don't have much. I'm sure it means a lot."