60th annual Christmas drop begins week of deliveries to Micronesia
They won't come down the chimney, but holiday presents and goods will rain down on dozens of Micronesian islands this week.
The 60th annual Operation Christmas Drop took off yesterday at Andersen Air Force Base, inaugurating a week of drops to more than 50 islands across Micronesia.
12 December 2011 drop took packages to Fais, Ngulu and Ulithi Lagoon in Yap state. Throughout the week three C-130 aircraft will bring packages carrying non-perishable food and survival equipment like machetes and fishing rods.
The annual giving is organized by a private nonprofit organization, but often receives support from military members, Air Force Capt. Saheba DeHenre, vice president of Operation Christmas Drop, said.
Efforts to raise supplies and funds for the drop started in July, and the goal this year was to collect 70 parachutes for the drops, DeHenre said. The organization ultimately collected well over that amount, and will make about 60 drops throughout the Micronesian islands, DeHenre said.
At the "push-off" event yesterday, members of the community and military spoke about the importance of the drops, and what they meant to the people in the outer islands of Micronesia.
Brig. Gen. John Doucette called the drop one of the most meaningful humanitarian missions in the Pacific, and thanked the community support that helped make the event possible.
"It's the most exciting day of their year. This is it. This is Christmas for them," keynote speaker Bruce Best said.
As a researcher at the University of Guam for the past three decades, Best has traveled to Micronesian islands to provide technical support for solar power projects.
"These islands do not have airstrips, do not have power, do not have water," Best said.
The islands have almost no communication with the outside world with only limited radio contact.
"Can you imagine a whole region on earth that Facebook hasn't touched? That's Micronesia," Best said.
But islanders are given a heads up as to when to expect the packages through radio alerts, Best said. The University of Guam supports islands across Micronesia with daily radio contact providing information on the weather and news.
Although the Christmas Drop packages will bring goods for residents, even the parachutes hold a value for islanders.
"The parachutes are the most prized possession," Best said.
The drops also mark Christmas for kids in the outer islands, and the contents of the bundles are often spread out after Christmas Mass for the children, Best said.
"You brighten the lives of more than 30,000 people in most remote areas on earth with Christmas Drop boxes," Best said.
Source: 13 December 2011 - Airman News
Photo: Aircrew members of the 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan, push a pallet out of a C-130 Hercules over the island of Fais, yesterday. Operation Christmas Drop 2011 is an annual event, airlifting pallets for 57 islands of Micronesia. The pallets contain school supplies, toys, medical supplies and common day items. / Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman