Every December, C-130 crews from the US Air Force team up with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal New Zealand Air Force for Operation Christmas Drop, a humanitarian aid and disaster relief training exercise designed to airdrop critical supplies to remote islands like Woleai throughout the FSM and the Republic of Palau.
The operation was first conducted in 1951 when the aircrew of a WB-29 aircraft assigned to the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron was flying a mission to the south of Guam over the Micronesian atoll of Kapingamarangi.
According to the US Air Force, when they saw the islanders waving to them, the crew quickly gathered some items they had on the plane, placed them in a container with a parachute attached and dropped the cargo as they circled again.
Today this unique Christmas tradition is continued with the donations from the residents and businesses of Guam. Each box dropped from a C-130 aircraft weighs nearly 400 pounds and contains items such as fishing nets, construction materials, powdered milk, canned goods, rice, coolers, clothing, shoes, toys and school supplies.
“Every Christmas drop is special for the island,” said Santos Bugoman, an 18-year resident of Woleai in a US Air Force release.
“We all have our own memories of (Operation Christmas Drop’s) past. I got my first pair of shoes in one of my first Christmas drops and it’s something I will always remember and cherish. I wore them until I had completely outgrown them and blisters were forming because they were too small. Maybe I was being just a little bit sentimental, but they were so special to me I didn’t want to let go of them.”