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The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) is participating for the first time in Operation Christmas Drop in Guam, packaging and delivering supplies to islands in the Western Pacific.
Operation Christmas Drop is an annual United States Air Force tradition that dates back to 1952. It started when locals on the island of Kapingamarangi, in the Federated States of Micronesia, waved at the aircrew of a passing WB-50 Superfortress, prompting the crew to gather supplies from the aircraft and drop them by parachute to people on the islands.
Now in its 68th year, Operation Christmas Drop includes air forces from Australia and Japan, and this year the RNZAF has sent a Hercules C-130 aircraft and personnel from No. 40 Squadron to participate.
Air Component Commander Air Commodore Tim Walshe said the RNZAF was keen to enter into the spirit of Christmas by being part of the operation, which was also an opportunity to work with partners and gain useful training.
“We’re pleased to be working with our military partners on this operation, bringing some Christmas cheer but also delivering much-needed items to the people on these islands,’’ Air Commodore Walshe said.
Flight Lieutenant Joe Hargraves, the Detachment Commander for the operation, said the crew were excited about working with the other nations delivering supplies to outlying Micronesian islands.
The operation was also a valuable opportunity for the crew to practice low-cost, low-altitude airdrops from C-130 aircraft over un-surveyed drop zones, Flight Lieutenant Hargraves said.
“These skills are very important during humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions, so participating in Operation Christmas Drop is an invaluable experience for us all.”
During the week-long operation, supplies will be delivered to more than 20,000 people living on 56 Micronesian islands spread over 1.8 million square nautical miles.
The packages include food, tools and clothing, plus other goods donated by private donors, charitable organisations and the University of Guam.
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