ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — With the holiday season now in full swing, C-130 Hercules aircrews and support personnel from Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force and the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, began spreading cheer and joy while practicing critical humanitarian aid/disaster relief (HA/DR) training by delivering donated goods via C-130 to more than 56 of the Pacific's most remote and populated islands.
The 2015 Operation Christmas Drop officially kicked off Dec. 8 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, with a celebratory "push ceremony." Military members from the 374th AW, 36th Wing and 734th Air Mobility Squadron here, 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and international partners from JASDF and RAAF gathered for the opening ceremony celebrating the first ever trilateral execution of Operation Christmas Drop.
Ongoing since 1952, Christmas Drop is the Defense Department’s longest running humanitarian airlift mission and impacts more than 20,000 islanders annually. C-130 aircrews will deliver nearly 40,000 pounds of supplies by executing more than 20 low-cost, low-altitude airdrop (LCLA) training missions to islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau.
"Members of our community consider all Micronesians brothers and sisters and we are happy to share this unique tradition in bridging the distance; that's the beauty of this operation, its impact goes beyond the coastline of Guam," said Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth, the 36th WG commander.
The ceremony allowed international and civic leaders from the three nations to join volunteers to witness the celebratory loading of the first pallet of supplies into one of the C-130s that will carry the supplies to their destination.
Addressing the RAAF and JASDF, Col. Douglas C. DeLaMater, the 374th AW commander, said "Your participation in the coming days highlights our dedication and commitment to modernizing our alliances, reinforcing our shared values, and deepening our partnerships across the region.
"Operation Christmas Drop is a prime example of the depth airpower brings to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he continued. “In addition to delivering critical supplies to those in need, Operation Christmas Drop provides specific training to U.S. and allied aircrews, enabling theater-wide airpower."
Over the course of the next eight days, the joint teams will train together on LCLA airdrop tactics and procedures. The crews will drop more than 100 bundles filled with critical supplies and humanitarian aid donations ensuring each island is provided a delivery of useful goods this holiday season.
"This coalition training results in a more robust force that is better enabled to execute rapid HA/DR and resupply missions at a moment's notice throughout the region and around the world," DeLaMater said.
Taking nearly seven months of planning, service members at Andersen raised money and solicited donations for the critical supplies, educational materials and toys that are delivered during Operation Christmas Drop. Andersen AFB collected, sorted and prepared the donations for the joint bundle build with U.S. Air Force, RAAF and JASDF combat mobility flight riggers.
"An event of this magnitude could not have been sustained for 64 years without the dedication and support from a variety of agencies across the board,” Toth said. “While the training missions are conducted by the Air Force, it is important to understand that this amazing joint endeavor has donations that come from a strong community right here on the island of Guam."
From military personnel to local community members, there was island-wide participation in the preparation for the big event. Donation boxes were left at both military installations and Government of Guam facilities for people to make contributions in support of Operation Christmas Drop.
"We had members of the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and local community help out to make this year's Operation Christmas Drop possible," said Master Sgt. Martinez-Andino, the 734th AMXS superintendent and Operation Christmas Drop organization president. "We began this process for the event in March and we have come a long way, we’re all excited to see the outcome."
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.