Posted by: Jacqui Murray | December 22, 2009

The US Air Force Plays Santa

The Marines are famous for Toys for Tots, but few know about the Air Force’s tradition of giving. True to the Navy’s new slogan–A Global Force for Good–Operation Christmas Drop uses American military planes to make life better for our international neighbors:

Operation Christmas Drop is under way once again

12/18/2009 – ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS) — More than 12 months of preparation have gone into ensuring this year’s four-day air drop mission, known as Operation Christmas Drop, goes smoothly, with countless fundraisers and many drop-off points made available to those wishing to donate supplies and operation christmas drophelp 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. Members of the Andersen family and representatives from the local community were on hand to assist in loading boxes onto a C-130 Hercules, in essence preparing the first sortie’s load of donations for delivery.

“For most of us, Christmas falls on a specific day on 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 it the longest-running airdrop mission in the history of the Air Force. 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 it 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 (Air Base, Japan). 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 the people on neighboring islands experience a wonderful holiday.

Long before the C-130s soar into the sky to execute Operation Christmas Drop, Airmen and volunteers come together for several packing sessions to prepare each box to be dropped. This year the packs took place on Nov. 21 and Dec. 5 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 people on 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. “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 operation sponsored by volunteers from Andersen and the local community. To date more than 800,000 pounds of goods have been dropped 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.”


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