From December 16 -19, U.S. Air Force (USAF) C-130 aircraft parachuted more than twelve tons of donated items to Pacific Islanders throughout Micronesia during the 58th annual Operation Christmas Drop. The humanitarian exercise is the longest running organized air drop in the world and one of the largest charity efforts in the Pacific.
The annual operation first began in December of 1952 when islanders on Kapingamarangi waved to the crew of a USAF WB-50 flying overhead. In the spirit of the holiday season, the Airmen gathered what supplies they could, packed them into a canister, ttached a parachute and dropped the goods to the islanders. Since then, through the cooperation of local and U.S. military communities in the Asia-Pacific region, Operation Christmas Drop has delivered over 800,000 pounds of supplies to thousands of residents living on remote islands in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Volunteers from Andersen Air Force Base, the University of Guam, local government, businesses, community members and professional and charitable organizations prepared this year's operation. They raised money and collected toys, clothing, fishing equipment, sporting goods, food items and tools for delivery to various communities spread out over 1.8 million square miles.
Brigadier General Phil Rhulman announced that the Air Force's efforts would provide islanders with over 25,000 pounds of food and supplies. Said Rhulman, "The spirit of Christmas is obviously behind what we do." Addressing volunteers, long-time Christmas Drop volunteer Bill Hagen explained that "for most of us Christmas falls on specific days in our calendar, but this year, on fifty-one islands, Christmas will begin as it has for over half a century, when you, the [U.S.] Air Force show up carrying Santa in the Sky."