HAGÅTÑA, Guam — Operation Christmas Drop, a U.S. Pacific Air Forces-sponsored multinational training and humanitarian assistance operation, takes off Saturday for its 69th annual mission.
Operation Christmas Drop is the Department of Defense’s longest-running humanitarian airlift training operation. It began during the Christmas season in 1952, when a B-29 Superfortress air crew saw islanders waving at them from the island of Kapingamarangi.
In the spirit of Christmas, the crew dropped a bundle of supplies attached to a parachute to the islanders below, giving the operation its name. Today, airdrop operations include more than 50 islands throughout the Pacific.
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The charity effort allows Air Force members from Andersen Air Force Base Guam, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and Yokota Air Base, Japan, to work with allies in the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to execute low-cost, low-altitude training.
Using the Denton Act — which allows private U.S. citizens and organizations to use space available on U.S. military cargo planes to transport humanitarian goods to countries in need — the C-130J Super Hercules crews airdrop food, supplies, educational materials and toys to islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.
Planning efforts heavily addressed the current pandemic and include a virtual international observer program, with other countries not attending in person, and adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“We’re taking deliberate steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during this year’s iteration of Operation Christmas Drop by following CDC COVID-19 guidelines and implementing approved sanitation measures for all donations,” said Col. Robert Craig-Gray, Pacific Air Forces chief flight surgeon, in a news release.
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“Socially distanced teams wearing recommended protective gear on shift work will prepare the donations in bundles, which will all be disinfected prior to delivery across the islands," Craig-Gray said.
"Every effort is being made to keep all participants and recipients involved safe and healthy so we can continue to carry out this amazing tradition of humanitarian assistance.”
This article originally appeared on Pacific Daily News: Operation Christmas Drop 2020 begins Dec. 5, Pacific Air Forces prepare