U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jojie Arcega, a loadmaster with the 36th Airlift Squadron, pushes a practice bundle from a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 8, 2017, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Over the course of 12 days, members of OCD provide critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands, impacting about 20,000 people covering 1.8 million square nautical miles of operating area. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Juan Torres)
Airman 1st Class Stephen Clark, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, waves to people on a Micronesian island after delivering a bundle during the 66th Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 11, 2017. Every December, C-130 aircrews from Yokota head to Andersen AFB. From there, the crews airdrop food, supplies and educational materials to islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Owsianka) (Photo by Staff Sgt. David Owsianka)
Maj. George Metros, 36th Airlift Squadron pilot, banks left over a Micronesian island to ensure a bundle safely landed on the island during the 66th Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 11, 2017. Over the course of 10 days, the aircrews airdrop food, supplies and educational materials to islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Owsianka) (Photo by Staff Sgt. David Owsianka)
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules has made its debut in Operation Christmas Drop (OCD) 2017.
Over the past year, Yokota Air Base has transitioned from the C-130H Hercules to the newer C-130J model. This is the first OCD that will utilize U.S. J-models, learning from the experience of the Royal Australian Air Force who have brought the C-130J to OCD for the past two years.
“Operation Christmas Drop 2017 has been the first year the U.S. Air Force has brought the C-130J,” said RAAF Flight Lieutenant Omar Rigo, 37th Squadron C-130J Pilot. “It's been incredibly important to us to share information and to share that experience with the U.S. Air Force.”
Although the Airmen have been receiving support from the RAAF, throughout the transition of the aircraft models, the aircrews have faced significant changes in their routine.
One significant difference in the operation of the J-model from the H-model used in previous years in OCD, is the elimination of two aircrew positions — the navigator and the flight engineer.
“The biggest changes are in our execution,” said Maj. Christopher Dolby, 36th Airlift Squadron mission commander. “The airdrop procedures aren't much different, but with the reduced crew positions, the method in which we actually do dynamic delivery, when it comes to pilots versus having someone up there to back you up, is very different.”
Although this transition hasn’t come without challenges, the Airmen are up to the task and proved they are willing to do whatever it takes to complete the mission.
“We've spent a lot of time over the past six months training our crew at home on different techniques and different tactics, how to do dynamic delivery in the J Model, which is not something we commonly do,” added Dolby. “That allows us to execute it safely right away. We've taken out most of the guess work in the actual execution of it.”
In addition to the training received at Yokota, OCD presents a unique opportunity for the aircrews to train and learn from partner nations on the newer J-model.
“OCD is great training for the aircrew,” said Maj. George Metros, 36th AS evaluator pilot. “We get to practice technique, tactics and procedures that we don’t necessarily get to practice on an everyday basis. Being able to validate those techniques that we’ve developed and put them to practical use is very rewarding.”
Yokota's 36th AS is the world's leader in advancing Low-Cost Low-Altitude airdrop capabilities. Each year, OCD serves as a proving ground for the techniques used and shared with regional partners in preparation for response to natural disasters all too common across the region.
“Our goal is to lead the planning, the execution, and to teach our partners how we use this new coastal humanitarian airdrop system and really to standardize it for everyone,” said Dolby.
Along with the U.S. Air Force, the Philippine Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Koku Jeitai, are also gaining mission planning experience and their own perspective of what it takes to accomplish OCD.
“I couldn't be more blessed to have the Japanese, the Australians, and the Filipinos in the capacities they're willing to serve down here,” said Dolby. “It goes to show that by standardizing and having the opportunity to do these training missions, we can really grow those allies out here and be able to continue to provide this capability to the region or throughout the world.”