A C-130 Hercules drops a bundle filled with donated goods and supplies to the remote Micronesian island of Fais during Operation Christmas Drop Dec. 8, 2015.
A C-130 Hercules drops a bundle filled with donated goods and supplies to the remote Micronesian island of Fais during Operation Christmas Drop Dec. 8, 2015. The 64th year of Operation Christmas Drop, which began in 1952, marked the first time international aviators from Japan and Australia joined the humanitarian airdrop training mission, where C-130 aircrews perform low-cost, low-altitude airdrops on unsurveyed drop zones while providing critical supplies to 56 islands. In addition to delivering critical supplies to those in need, Operation Christmas Drop provides specific training to U.S. and allied aircrews, enabling theater-wide airpower. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Katrina Brisbin)

Instead of a reindeer-powered sleigh, Santa delivers Christmas from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam to more than 20,000 Pacific islanders by C-130 Hercules drops from the air.

For the first time in the 63-year history of Operation Christmas Drop, the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, has two partners in support personnel from Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force in delivering donated goods to more than 56 of the Pacific’s most remote and populated islands. Each nation provided one C-130 for the trilateral operation.

Not only is Operation Christmas Drop the Defense Department’s longest running humanitarian airlift mission, but it also gives the 374th AW an opportunity to practice humanitarian aid and disaster relief. C-130 aircrews deliver almost 40,000 pounds of supplies by executing more than 20 low-cost, low-altitude airdrop training missions to islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau. The airdrop missions allow aircrews to practice essential combat skills and demonstrate commitment throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region while helping the U.S. strengthen cooperation with two allies.

Cpl. Teome Matamua and Sgt. Phillip McIllvaney, Australian Army 176th Air Dispatch Squadron loadmasters, deliver the first low-cost, low-altitude bundle of Operation Christmas Drop 2015 to the island of MogMog, Dec. 8, 2015.
Cpl. Teome Matamua and Sgt. Phillip McIllvaney, Australian Army 176th Air Dispatch Squadron loadmasters, deliver the first low-cost, low-altitude bundle of Operation Christmas Drop 2015 to the island of MogMog, Dec. 8, 2015. Australian and Japanese C-130 aircrews, for the first time, joined U.S. Airmen during the 64th year of Operation Christmas Drop – a humanitarian aid/disaster relief training event where C-130 aircrews perform airdrops on unsurveyed drop zones while providing critical supplies to 56 islands throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau. It highlights the U.S. and allied airpower capabilities to orient and respond to activities in times of peace and crisis. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Katrina Brisbin)

“Members of our community consider all Micronesians brothers and sisters, and we are happy to share this unique tradition in bridging the distance,” said Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth, the 36th Wing commander. “That’s the beauty of this operation – its impact goes beyond the coastline of Guam.”

The exact origin of Operation Christmas Drop isn’t known, but according to 36th Wing history, the first supplies were dropped during Christmas in 1952. An aircrew, assigned to the 54th Weather Squadron at Andersen AFB, flew a WB-29 Superfortress over Kapingamarangi in the Federated States of Micronesia, south of Guam, and saw villagers waving at them from the ground. The crew packed items on the plane in a box and dropped it on a parachute used for weather buoys. The drops continued each year until the name Operation Christmas Drop was officially named six years later.

The 2015 Operation Christmas Drop officially kicked off Dec. 8 at Andersen AFB, with a celebratory “push ceremony.” Military members from the 374th AW, 36th Wing, 734th Air Mobility Squadron, 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing, all from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and international partners from Australia and Japan gathered for the opening ceremony celebrating the first ever trilateral execution of Operation Christmas Drop.

Japan Air Self-Defense Force Master Sgt. Toyonaga Toshihisa checks Tech. Sgt. Takahashi Tetsuki’s safety harnesses before an Operation Christmas Drop airdrop Dec. 8, 2015, near the island of Falalap in Micronesia.
Japan Air Self-Defense Force Master Sgt. Toyonaga Toshihisa checks Tech. Sgt. Takahashi Tetsuki’s safety harnesses before an Operation Christmas Drop airdrop Dec. 8, 2015, near the island of Falalap in Micronesia. Both airmen are loadmasters with the 1st Tactical Airlift Wing, 401st Squadron. The humanitarian assistance mission is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian airdrop operation and will provide nearly 25 tons of critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands this year, impacting about 20,000 people. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

Addressing the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force, Col. Douglas C. DeLaMater, the 374th AW commander, said, “Your participation in the coming days highlights our dedication and commitment to modernizing our alliances, reinforcing our shared values, and deepening our partnerships across the region.

“Operation Christmas Drop is a prime example of the depth airpower brings to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “In addition to delivering critical supplies to those in need, Operation Christmas Drop provides specific training to U.S. and allied aircrews, enabling theater-wide airpower.”

Capt. Jake Roney, a 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules pilot, introduces aircrews from the Royal Australian Air Force to U.S. service members at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 4, 2015.
Capt. Jake Roney, a 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules pilot, introduces aircrews from the Royal Australian Air Force to U.S. service members at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 4, 2015. Operation Christmas Drop 2015 is the first ever trilateral training event to include additional air support from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Osakabe Yasuo)

Throughout the week after the ceremony, the joint teams trained together on low-cost, low-altitude airdrop tactics and procedures. The crews will drop more than 100 bundles filled with humanitarian aid donations and critical supplies, such as books, canned goods, construction materials, clothing, coolers, fishing nets, powdered milk, shoes, school supplies, and toys.

“This coalition training results in a more robust force that is better enabled to execute rapid (humanitarian aid and disaster response) and resupply missions at a moment’s notice throughout the region and around the world,” DeLaMater said.

First Lt. Ben Valdes Encinas, the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron officer in charge, walks across the flightline before greeting his Australian counterparts at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 4, 2015.
First Lt. Ben Valdes Encinas, the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron officer in charge, walks across the flightline before greeting his Australian counterparts at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 4, 2015. Operation Christmas Drop 2015 is the first ever trilateral training event that includes additional air support from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force C-130 aircrews. (U.S. Air Force photo/Osakabe Yasuo)

During almost seven months of planning, service members at Andersen raised money and solicited donations for the critical supplies, educational materials and toys that are delivered during Operation Christmas Drop. Andersen AFB collected, sorted and prepared the donations for the joint bundle build with U.S. Air Force, RAAF and JASDF combat mobility flight riggers.

“An event of this magnitude could not have been sustained for 64 years without the dedication and support from a variety of agencies across the board,” Toth said. “While the training missions are conducted by the Air Force, it is important to understand that this amazing joint endeavor has donations that come from a strong community right here on the island of Guam.”

Peter Christian, the president of the Federated States of Micronesia, signs a bundle of donated goods destined for the island of Saliap, Woleai Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 13, 2015, during an Operation Christmas Drop training mission.
Peter Christian, the president of the Federated States of Micronesia, signs a bundle of donated goods destined for the island of Saliap, Woleai Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 13, 2015, during an Operation Christmas Drop training mission. Christian participated in Operation Christmas Drop this year to observe the U.S. Air Force’s support to the Federated States of Micronesia. Operation Christmas Drop 2015 is the first ever trilateral training event that also included air support from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force C-130 aircrews. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Joshua Smoot)

From military personnel to local community members, there was island-wide participation in the preparation for the big event. Donation boxes were left at both military installations and Government of Guam facilities for people to make contributions in support of Operation Christmas Drop.

“We had members of the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and local community help out to make this year’s Operation Christmas Drop possible,” said Master Sgt. Martinez-Andino, the 734th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent and Operation Christmas Drop organization president. “We began this process for the event in March, and we have come a long way, we’re all excited to see the outcome.”

Last year, the Pacific Air Forces delivered 50,000 pounds of supplies to 56 Micronesian Islands.

An island in Republic of Palau, Dec. 11, 2015, during Operation Christmas Drop 2015.
An island in Republic of Palau, Dec. 11, 2015, during Operation Christmas Drop 2015. This year marks the 64th year of Operation Christmas Drop, which began in 1952, and is the first trilateral execution of the event with support from Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force C-130s. (U.S. Air Force photo by Osakabe Yasuo)