Andersen AFB to host 69th annual Operation Christmas Drop

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Loadmasters with the 36th Airlift Squadron out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, watch as the four Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian assistance bundles they just airdropped parachute down to those in need during Operation Christmas Drop 2019, at Nomwin, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 13, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Operation Christmas Drop is a U.S. Pacific Air Forces-sponsored multinational training and humanitarian assistance mission based out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. This year’s event is bilateral and conducted in partnership with Japan as the 69th iteration of the operation is set to begin 5 December.

The weeklong international charity effort will allow Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) airpower ambassadors from Andersen AFB, Guam, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and Yokota Air Base, Japan, to work with their allies in the Japan Air Self- Defense Force to execute low-cost, low-altitude training air drops.

Operation Christmas Drop is the Department of Defense’s longest-running humanitarian airlift training operation. The tradition began during the Christmas season in 1952 when a B-29 Superfortress aircrew saw islanders waving at them from the island of Kapingamarangi, 3,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. In the spirit of Christmas the aircrew dropped a bundle of supplies attached to a parachute to the islanders below, giving the operation its name. Today, air drop operations include more than 50 islands throughout the Pacific. Operation Christmas Drop includes Airmen and assets from the 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan; the 36th Wing, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; 734th Air Mobility Squadron, Andersen AFB, the 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; the University of Guam; and the ‘Operation Christmas Drop’ private organization which leads the fundraising and donations for the operation. Andersen is used as a “base camp” to airlift the donated goods to islanders throughout Micronesia.

Utilizing the Denton Act, which allows private U.S. citizens and organizations to use space available on U.S. military cargo planes to transport humanitarian goods to countries in need, the C-130J Super Hercules crews airdrop food, supplies, educational materials, and toys to islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau. These islands are some of the most remote locations on the globe spanning a distance nearly as broad as the continental U.S.

The event provides readiness training to participating aircrew, allowing them to gain experience in conducting airdrops while providing critical supplies to 55 Micronesian islands impacting about 20,000 people.

Low-Cost Low-Altitude (LCLA) airdrop is cost-efficient and easy to apply across the global airlift community, utilizing readily available resources and repurposed personnel parachutes to build supply pallets at a fraction of the cost of other airdrop bundles.

Demonstrating and executing LCLA drops alongside regional allies is just one example of the USAF actively pursuing and participating in interoperability partner training to increase Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief operational capabilities while ensuring stability in the Indo- Pacific region.

The capabilities employed during OCD are a unique method of delivery suited to the region. Coast Humanitarian Air Drop (CHAD) takes the LCLA capability to the types of environments seen in many places throughout the Pacific. Together, CHAD and LCLA represent a unique Humanitarian Aid/Disaster Response or wartime capability that enables the USAF and allied nations to rapidly respond anywhere in the Indo-Pacific.

OCD20 planning efforts heavily addressed the current global pandemic and include a virtual international observer program with other countries not attending in person and adherence to Center for Disease Control guidelines.

“We’re taking deliberate steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during this year’s iteration of Operation Christmas Drop by following CDC COVID-19 guidelines and implementing approved sanitation measures for all donations,” said Col. Robert Craig-Gray, Pacific Air Forces Chief Flight Surgeon. “Socially-distanced teams wearing recommended protective gear on shift work will prepare the donations in bundles which will all be disinfected prior to delivery across the islands. Every effort is being made to keep all participants and recipients involved safe and healthy so we can continue to carry out this amazing tradition of humanitarian assistance.”

A virtual media day is scheduled for Monday, 8 December, where OCD20 participants will be available for interviews. Media interested in virtually covering events should contact the OCD20 Media Operation Center through the 36th Wing Public Affairs office at (671) 366-3004 and RSVP at 36wg.PA.mediaoperations@us.af.mil. Due to COVID- 19 and our effort to limit risk of exposure, OCD20 will be closed to media on-site.

(Pacific Air Forces News Release)

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