Operation Christmas Drop Delivers 75,000 Pounds of Humanitarian Supplies to the Pacific

Operation Christmas Drop 2022
U.S. Air Force Capt. Maddie Atkinson and Capt. Eichard Armfield, 36th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130J pilots, fly over Saipan, Dec. 1, 2022, during Operation Christmas Drop 2022. (Yasuo Osakabe/U.S. Air Force)

This year, the Air Force, alongside four other countries' militaries, parachuted more than 200 bundles of humanitarian supplies to 57 locations in the Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau as part of its annual Operation Christmas Drop mission.

Between Dec. 4 and Dec. 13, aircrews from the Republic of Korea Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force helped the U.S. deliver more than 75,000 pounds of supplies in the west Pacific, according to a news release from last week.

"It was truly exciting to come together as an international team of Airmen for such a good cause," Capt. Andrew Zaldivar, the Operation Christmas Drop mission commander, said in the release. "Being able to be part of this mission is truly humbling, and I'm happy our team was able to work together with our partner nation aircrews to deliver aid to people living on these isolated islands."

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This month's operations marks the 71st time Operation Christmas Drop has been activated. It first started in 1952, making it one of the longest-running humanitarian and training operations in the history of the Department of Defense.

Items contained in the air-dropped bundles include clothes, food, medical gear, school supplies, fishing equipment and other humanitarian items.

Aircrews use the mission to not only deliver needed supplies to the remote islands, but also use it as a training opportunity to prepare dropping cargo at lower altitudes in war zones.

Airmen solicit donations for months and then organize volunteers to assemble the boxes and fill them with the supplies, before the packages are parachuted onto the islands in the Pacific.

Operation Christmas Drop has also become a cultural staple of the holiday season, inspiring a 2020 Netflix holiday film of the same name.

That same year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Operation Christmas Drop was scaled back with some partner countries choosing not to assist with the drop and Micronesia choosing not to receive packages.

But this year, Operation Christmas Drop had returned to pre-COVID-19 levels. Aircrews from New Zealand, which hadn't been involved since 2019, were happy to be a part of the mission again.

"I've enjoyed meeting with other nations and sharing the common experience of delivering aid here in the Pacific," Royal New Zealand Air Force flight Lt. Campbell Wilson said in the news release. "This aid is delivered with goodwill and with pride and love from all the agencies involved. We've really enjoyed being part of it, and we're honored to take part."

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at thomas.novelly@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

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