Five partner nation air forces worked together to deliver humanitarian aid as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2022, the Department of Defense’s longest-running humanitarian aid mission delivering essential supplies to island communities in the western Pacific, Dec. 4-13, 2022.
Aircrew from the U.S. Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force participated in the 71st Operation Christmas Drop this year, delivering 209 bundles of supplies weighing a total of more than 75 thousand pounds to 57 locations in the Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau.
“It is a phenomenal thing that we have been able to continue this tradition for 71 years,” said Lt. Col. Kira Coffey, 36th Airlift Squadron commander. “The 36th AS has been central to this effort and getting to see this event and seeing the tangible effect it has to the people on the islands is important and fulfilling.”
Eight partner nation C-130 aircraft traveled to Andersen AFB to participate in the humanitarian mission. Crews took part in joint operations planning and preparation needed to ensure the successful delivery of each bundle.
“It was truly exciting to come together as an international team of airmen for such a good cause,” said Capt. Andrew Zaldivar, 36th AS pilot and Operation Christmas Drop mission commander.
“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.”
Items contained in each bundle included clothing, food, medical and school supplies, fishing equipment and other essential goods. Prior to the first airdrop, the base hosted a bundle build event where Operation Christmas Drop participants joined local community volunteers to organize donations and decorate each box for delivery.
International participants in Operation Christmas Drop expressed their enthusiasm for the mission and support for the importance of delivering humanitarian aid.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting with other nations and sharing the common experience of delivering aid here in the Pacific,” said Royal New Zealand Air Force Flight Lieutenant Campbell Wilson, 40 Squadron detachment commander. “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.”
Additionally, Operation Christmas Drop allowed U.S. and partner nation aircrew the opportunity to hone skills needed for future operations. Airmen delivered bundles using a low-cost low-altitude delivery method, a way of effectively airlifting supplies to austere locations using fewer resources.
This year’s event culminated in a multinational 7-ship elephant walk down the Andersen AFB flightline, an event that included a C-130 aircraft from each participating country.
“It was exciting to see our partner nation C-130s come out and showcase the team effort that is so critical to the success of Operation Christmas Drop,” said Coffey. “We demonstrated how we can seamlessly work together as a team and integrate operations in support of delivering vital supplies to isolated communities. I’m proud of our international team of airmen who have worked so hard to ensure this mission is successful.”