Mobility Airmen ensure tradition of Operation Christmas Drop continues

Air Force photograph by Master Sgt. Theanne Herrmann

Airmen from the 734th Air Mobility Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, are working to uphold the tradition of Operation Christmas Drop by organizing the delivery of bundles to the people of 54 Micronesian islands, Dec. 3-13.

The 734th AMS and Operation Christmas Drop, a private organization of 372 active volunteers, gathered donations and filled boxes destined to reach the hands of 20,000 people as a part of the Department of Defense’s longest-running humanitarian mission.

“For 65 years, we have remained committed to this phenomenal humanitarian mission, delivering hope and aid to some of the most remote islands in the world,” said Col. Scott Zippwald, 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing commander, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Members of the 734th AMS have a critical role in planning and coordinating the logistical aspect of Operation Christmas Drop. Without their work on the ground, the aircrew would not have supplies to deliver, said Zippwald.

Each box is rigged with a parachute and airdropped from a C-130 Hercules by the 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Force Base, Japan, and their mission partners the Royal Australian Air Force and the Japanese Self Defense Force.

The islanders can expect boxes of fish hooks, rice, clothing, toys and educational materials donated by people from around the world, said Capt. Aaron Bowens, 734th AMS, maintenance operations officer, who volunteered to be president of Operation Christmas Drop.

The committee coordinated fundraising events throughout the past 11 months which included golf and Crossfit tournaments.

“This has been the most successful committee to date,” said Bowens. “We collected 45,000 pounds of donated items. With our fundraisers we collected $52,167, which is twice the record amount raised.”

Chief Master Sgt. Todd Donaldson, 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing Command Chief, based out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, signs a box of donated goods en route to one of the 54 Micronesian islands as a part of the 65th Operation Christmas Drop Dec. 6, 2016. Operation Christmas Drop is the longest running humanitarian airlift operation in the history of the Department of Defense, impacting the lives of more than 20,000 islanders. The people of the Micronesian islands can expect to see service members aboard a C-130 Hercules drop a box, attached to a parachute, filled with rice, fish hooks, educational materials, clothing and toys.

Bowen added the experience has been a highlight in his career.

“It touches your heart knowing the work we are doing is going to have a huge impact on the lives of others,” said Bowens. “It’s cool to be the lead for a 65-year-old tradition because sometimes traditions can get lost as we are always evolving, always changing, but we are keeping this tradition going.”

This is also the first year Operation Christmas Drop integrated with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, delivering 20,000 pounds of items by sea.

“This operation demonstrates the breadth of power and Rapid Global Mobility that can be accomplished through integration with our mission partners,” said Zippwald. “Three services, three Wings, three nations, all coming together (for this humanitarian mission) and as a reminder that we are here for them. We can deliver…anywhere, anytime.”