Until next year, Operation Christmas Drop 2020 comes to a close

Staff Sgt. Hector Frietze, right, and Senior Airman John Allum, left, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmasters, wave to the people of the Island of Angaur, Republic of Palau, during the first bundle airdrops of Operation Christmas Drop 2020, Dec. 6. OCD is the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, allowing the U.S. and its allies to deliver food, tools and clothing to the people who live on remote islands in the South-Eastern Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding)
Staff Sgt. Hector Frietze, right, and Senior Airman John Allum, left, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmasters, wave to the people of the Island of Angaur, Republic of Palau, during the first bundle airdrops of Operation Christmas Drop 2020, Dec. 6. OCD is the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, allowing the U.S. and its allies to deliver food, tools and clothing to the people who live on remote islands in the South-Eastern Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding)

Until next year, Operation Christmas Drop 2020 comes to a close

by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding
U.S. Air Force

“This year is a story of hope,” said Tech. Sgt. Lou Splichal, Operation Christmas Drop 2020 senior enlisted leader. “To come here and show that we can still do this mission, which we are accustomed to doing, but moreover, ensure that it takes care of people, is at the heart of it all.”

Andersen Air Force Base, Guam united with Yokota Air Base, Japan and the Japan Self-Defense Force for the 69th annual OCD, delivering love from above for the people of the Republic of Palau. C-130 aircrews airdropped 64 bundles, totaling 3,200 lbs of cargo to the people living on some of the most remote islands in the world, Dec. 6th to the 10th.

Due to challenges of COVID-19, this year was a little different than years past; however, a lot of hard work was done to ensure the success of OCD.

Prior to arriving to Guam, all Yokota personnel involved in the operation had to complete a 14-day restriction of movement at their place of residence and receive a negative COVID test. Before bundles were assembled, all donated items were held in a sanitized location for a minimum of 24 hours. During the bundle build, all participants were required to wear masks and gloves. Bundles were then disinfected and sat in a sanitary location for a minimum of 72 hours before being loaded onto a C-130 for delivery.

“There were a lot of measures we took to make sure that what we did was in line with the DOD and the [Centers of Disease Control] guidelines,” said Maj. Joseph Spitz, OCD mission commander. “This allowed us to mitigate the risk of spread and transmission of COVID-19 to the islanders of Palau.”

Getting these critical supplies of food, medicine and other items necessary for survival to the people in the South-Eastern Pacific region has always been at the root of the OCD mission. This year, as a historic first, the islands of Koror and Peleliu were able to also receive bundles of aid.

“The islands farther out may not see aid for an entire year, and OCD is the only opportunity for them to get that life-sustaining aide, specifically with some of the challenges associated with a global pandemic,” said Spitz. “Not to say they’re not being taken care of, but there's a unique advantage that OCD has using that space available tactical airlift to deliver humanitarian aid to these islands that really can't be replicated.”

OCD continues a tradition of not only helping those in need but working with our partner nations to better meet the ever-evolving needs of the region, and for the past six years the JASDF has participated as a vital part of the mission. The aircrews were able to accomplish vital training on the techniques used and shared between the nations to better respond to natural disasters in the Indo-Pacific region.

“[This operation] is not a single person, squadron or unit exercise,” said Spitz. “I don't know that we could accomplish this mission without the support of Anderson, Yokota or without the support of our JASDF partners, of whom we've come to rely on so heavily and enjoy their participation.”

Having the opportunity to work in a bilateral capacity with the JASDF during OCD, and in years past with the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force, continues to strengthen our interoperability and response capabilities in deterring aggression, providing humanitarian and disaster relief and maintaining an open and free Indo-Pacific.

With the bundles dropped, experienced gained, relationships built and supplies delivered, it was the spirit of helping others that would prove to leave a lasting impression on all of the crews that took part.

“The impact that this operation has on the islanders, not on just Micronesia and Palau, but the level of care and appreciation from the people of Guam is something you’re not going to see anywhere else,” said Spitz. “I don’t want to be in a world where Operation Christmas Drop doesn’t exist.”

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