Yokota, Andersen airmen kick off Operation Christmas Drop
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, GUAM -- Thousands of islanders on more than 50 Pacific islands will soon see hundreds of crates containing humanitarian aid and presents parachuting near their homes as Operation Christmas Drop marks its 63rd consecutive year.
Andersen Air Force Base kicks off the event in conjunction with C-130 Hercules aircrews from the 374th Airlift Wing from Yokota Air Base, Japan, with a "push ceremony" Dec 9 at 9 a.m. in Hangar 1. The ceremony allows 36th Wing, 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing leaders from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Yokota leaders to join with local community partners and Operation Christmas Drop volunteers to commemorate the event by pushing the event's first pallet into a waiting C-130 before the first mission.
This event, which has occurred since 1952, is the world's longest humanitarian airlift mission. The push ceremony marks the beginning of the annual humanitarian airlift mission that supplies residents from more than 50 islands with boxes that contain donations to include; non-perishable food items, clothing, medical supplies, tools, toys and other various items. Aircrews from the 374th AW fly official training missions to practice airdrop techniques using the humanitarian materials collected by the Andersen-based Operation Christmas Drop committee, a private organization primarily made up of base volunteers.
"It's a 'win-win' for all that are involved," said Master Sgt. Robert Mueller, Operation Christmas Drop president. "It allows us to provide aid for the islands as well as training for the Airmen of Yokota Air Base that are unable to do low-level drop training due to the restricted flying codes where they are located."
The event takes six months of planning each year and includes several agencies from Andersen, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and Yokota.
The Operation Christmas Drop organization works closely with Airmen from the Andersen-based 374th Air Mobility Squadron, a tenant unit of the 515th AMOW at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The volunteers met on several occasions this month to pack materials, build pallets for crates and prepare packages to be loaded on C-130 aircraft to airdrop to islanders.
This year the team prepared more than 50,000 pounds of supplies, the most ever donated. Aircrews are prepared to drop 160 pallets weighing 500-600 pounds each during 17 separate missions.
This annual event also involves coordination with non-governmental organizations and State Department officials in the region. Funds for the event are raised by sponsored activities such as golf tournaments and bake sales, as well as local businesses sponsoring individual boxes and donating items.
"At any given time we have 75 volunteers assisting with the (fund-raising) events," Mueller said. "We're really pumped to kick of the event."