U.S. Air Force Conducts ‘Christmas Drop’ To Remote Micronesia

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Medicine, clothes and food distributed to outer islands

By Malorie Paine

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 11, 2014) – More than 50,000 pounds of supplies, including medicine, clothes and food, will have been delivered via air drop to islands surrounding Guam when the military's 63rd annual Operation Christmas Drop ends Saturday.

Residents of Micronesian islands that have neither power or water grids nor more than rudimentary telecommunication receive the supplies, said Bruce Best. Best is a volunteer who coordinates the drops for the Air Force through University of Guam's Telecommunications and Distance Education Operation. Supplies, which are donated and collected through the Air Force, are dropped using two C-130s.

Islands that benefit from Operation Christmas Drop are unable to receive mail or readily access medical supplies or outside food, Best said. Because most of the islands are small and don't have landing strips, they can be reached only by boat or air drop.

Island residents are only able to communicate with Best using a solar-powered radio system, Best said.

"The Christmas Drop is the biggest day of their lives," Best said. "They wait all year for this."

Because the Micronesian islands can't access the satellite system most of the world uses, residents can only communicate with Best and others at UOG's TADEO office.

Col. Jeffrey Pierce, vice commander of the 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, said Christmas Drop is a way to support local communities that support the Air Force every day.

"(Christmas Drop) is an annual humanitarian assistance mission. It's totally voluntary," Pierce said. "It shows how air power can support people. There are about 20,000 people, and the only way they can get supplies is through boats or air drop."

Operation Christmas Drop began in 1952 and has continued every year since. Pierce said it is important for Christmas Drop to continue because it shows that the United States is dedicated to the Pacific region.

"We have always been a big part of the Pacific, the United States has, and we will continue to do so," Pierce said. "We care about people, and we want to continue to partner with all of our allies to make life better and help those in need."

Operation Christmas Drop this year will deliver 88 bundles weighing around 580 pounds each.

Best said all who are involved with Operation Christmas Drop would like to do more, but the planes have enough gas to get only so far.

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