Santa’s helpers have packed up the workshop and returned home after completing Operation Christmas Drop 2018.
Over a week and a half in December, Santa’s C-130s from the U.S. Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Koku Jietai) and the Royal Australian Air Force teamed up out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to airdrop 154 bundles, totaling 103,000 lbs of cargo to 20,000 people on some of the most remote islands in the world, spanning a distance nearly the size of the continental United States to get the supplies they need.
With each bundle dropped and hours of flight time logged, the crews from the three nations trained on the techniques used and shared in preparation to respond to natural disasters in the Indo-Pacific region, all the while demonstrating good will to those with few material resources.
“Ultimately this was a training mission for all of us,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Dan Gnazzo, 36th Airlift Squadron OCD mission commander out of Yokota Air Base, Japan. “OCD is a trilateral mission designed to allow us to plan and work in future contingency operations with our partners. Between building our partnerships and the dynamic ability of the Coastal Humanitarian Air Drop we can each execute, we are prepared for any disaster relief situation.”
Through that multilateral approach, the nations in attendance know they are each stronger and more effective when working together.
“OCD provides us with such a unique training opportunity because it allows us the chance to work with the U.S. Air Force and the RAAF,” said JASDF Maj. Kentaro Mihara, 1st Tactical Airlift Wing, 401st Squadron C-130 Hercules aircraft commander out of Komaki Air Base, Japan. “It’s an operation that not only lets us contribute to the people, but allows us to contribute to the area more effectively.”
It is that shared commitment to the region and its people that has helped maintain the continued success of OCD over the years.
“Every step of the way we work together to accomplish the mission,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Lucas Crouch, 1st Tactical Airlift Wing, 401st Squadron assistant director of operations and exchange officer, also out of Komaki AB. “We mission plan and brief together and then we all go out and do the exact same mission. As we all accomplish that mission it brings us closer together and makes us stronger together. OCD is an opportunity for everyone participating to come out and not only showcase what we each are capable of, but what we are capable of together.”
It is that shared trust, responsibility and capability that has led to the nations working more in unison when it comes to responding to real-world disaster relief situations all too common in the region.
“The more and more we work together the stronger we become as a unit,” said Mihara. “From the shared briefings to the airdrops we do, it all contributes to our familiarity among the nations. Because of events like OCD, we’ve been able to respond to situations and been greeted by familiar faces we’ve work with before. Having that experience makes it all the easier to accomplish the mission whether here or in different environments down the road.”
While training to better meet the humanitarian aid and disaster relief needs of the region for the future, it is that spirit of giving that meant the most to all of Santa’s crews.
“It’s fantastic to be a part of Christmas Drop,” said RAAF FLTLT Nicolas Bourke, 37th Squadron C-130J Super Hercules pilot and detachment commander out of RAAF Base Richmond, Australia. “Not only are we participating with our partner nations to build on those relationships, but we are able to reach out to people, provide them with supplies and to let them know we are a partner in this part of the world. While the training to airdrop these bundles in austere environments has been great for us, it’s incredibly fulfilling to spread a little Christmas cheer. The waving from the islanders in appreciation as we fly over their island is instant gratification and it really makes OCD such a rewarding experience.”