Air Force C-130 cargo aircraft deliver packages during Operation Christmas Drop 2017 at Murilo Atoll, Chuuk. Over the course of 12 days, crews will airdrop donated food, supplies, educational materials, and tools to 56 islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau. (Photo by Air Force Airmen 1st Class Gerald R. Willies)
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)
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Imagine living on one of the most remote islands in the world where the primary means of transportation on, off and around your home is by boat; and every December you see bundles drop from aircraft providing you with essential supplies to help with your daily life.
Those bundles come from U.S. Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and the Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self Defense Force) aircrews in the joint training environment of Operation Christmas Drop to ensure that 56 Micronesian islands receive the nearly 25 tons of critical supplies that will impact about 20,000 people this year.
The trio of Air Forces will cover 1.8 million square nautical miles of operating area during the 66th annual OCD event, held at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, while providing various goods ranging from food to educational material and supplies inside the bundles.
“I am very blessed and proud to be able to serve in this capacity for Christmas Drop, learn the back story of this event and fortunate to lead it because we have brought a fantastic international team together,” Maj. Christopher Dolby, 36th Airlift Wing pilot and OCD mission commander. “This operation really goes to show that by standardizing and having the opportunity to do these missions that we can strengthen our allies throughout this region and continue to provide his capability to this region, and throughout the world.”
Completing this training during OCD enhances humanitarian assistance and disaster relief crisis response capabilities between the three nations and lays the foundation for regional cooperation expansion during real-world contingencies in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
Each aircrew could fly up to 1,000 nautical miles to deliver bundles to the islanders during their missions.
It’s incredibly satisfying flying during this training operation as we deliver humanitarian aid to these remote islands and strengthen professional development as we fly,” said Flt. Lt. Omar Rigo, 37th Squadron C-130J pilot. “It’s also very important for us to foster close working relationships with both of our Christmas drop counterparts. We’ve been sharing a lot of knowledge on operating the aircraft and completing airdrops.
“We have also shared our knowledge of operating the J-model with Yokota personnel during this training event since we have been operating this aircraft for several years now.”
With this being the first year for many of the Yokota aircrews flying the J-model, the experience gained from last year’s training by several returning crew members training alongside each other this year has helped the 36 AS personnel become more efficient in operating the aircraft.
“Since we are flying the J-model for the first time during this mission, we are fortunate that Australia has flown the aircraft before,” Dolby said. “Some of us participated in this mission last year and were able to fly on their aircraft, which provided us with the knowledge we needed to help set up missions this year. The biggest challenge we’ve had in transitioning from the H-model to the J-model is the reduction in crew members, so we spent a lot of time working with our crew at our home station on different techniques and tactics on how to do dynamic delivery in the J-model.”
This is the third consecutive year the U.S. Air Force, our allies and international partners will train alongside each other while completing Low-Cost, Low-Altitude airdrop tactics and procedures training to provide the critical supplies to the various islands.
“I think this operation is a very important training for us because it strengthens ties between the three countries while this enhances the interoperability of our nations as we complete this training,” Lt. Col. Katsunori Asanuma, 1st Tactical Airlift Wing 401st Squadron commander. “We can also gain a mutual understanding through this, which is great because when we work together in future scenarios we have to do everything with the same sense of value and we will already know how to work with one another.”
One of the pillars of U.S. defense strategic guidance is building partner capacity. With Yokota routinely conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises, like OCD, to meet that pillar, it helps Airmen to work alongside service members from various countries to be better prepared to work together if and when a disaster strikes.
“I hope everyone gained confidence, understanding and the knowledge of how to execute dynamic delivery and deliver coastal humanitarian airdrop, because there is always a bit of an uncertainty doing this,” Dolby said. “I want everyone who participated to leave proud of what we accomplished, and confident in their knowledge and experience we have gained from completing this training.”