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Andersen preps for Operation Christmas Drop 2011

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Whitney Tucker
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Once again, the 36th Wing is shifting into high gear in preparation for the 60th iteration of the Air Force's longest running humanitarian airlift mission, Operation Christmas Drop.

Since 1951, Operation Christmas Drop has been spreading the holiday spirit in the form of much-needed supplies to residents in some of the most remote parts of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands chain.

Operation Christmas Drop is a non-profit organization powered by volunteers from Andersen Air Force Base and members of the local community and has to date, dropped more than 800,000 pounds of goods throughout the surrounding islands.

Fundraising for this event is scheduled to kick-off with a 5K run/walk Nov. 19 followed by a bake sale at the Base Exchange Nov. 26. In addition to fundraisers, individual and group donations may also be made to the cause.

Manny Hechanova, a representative from the University of Guam, is responsible for communicating with the islands to determine what residents need most.

"We communicate by whatever means necessary to get islanders the supplies they need," Mr. Hechanova said. "Primarily we use radios, but for islands that are more remote we must sometimes relay messages by fishing boat. Whatever we have to do to get goods where they need to be, we do."

"Some of the things we are looking for specifically are school supplies, potting soil, vegetable seeds, dental products, canned foods, clothing, toys and machetes," he continued.

Items can be dropped off at any of the designated Operation Christmas Drop boxes located both on, and off base.

"Right now, we have drop boxes at the Andersen passenger terminal, the base commissary, Andersen Elementary and Middle Schools, Guam Tropical Dive Station in Tamuning and Chamorro Villiage in Agatna," said Capt. Francine Kwarteng, 734th Air Mobility Squadron officer in Freight Terminal officer in charge.

After fundraising has concluded and all donations are collected there will be a "box-build" where volunteers package the donated items into boxes capped with parachutes. During a "push ceremony" representatives from the local community and members from Team Andersen load the boxes onto the airlift aircraft.

"My goal this year is community outreach," Captain Kwarteng said. "We are doing a good job so far and I feel we will be relying on community support more than ever as budget cuts continue."

Operation Christmas Drop delivers supplies to various islands throughout the CNMI, Palau, Yap, and Chuuk.

"I really appreciate the support we have been getting from the community and personnel here on Andersen," the captain continued. "Operation Christmas Drop could not be a success without the amazing support."

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