US, Japan to kick off Operation Christmas Drop despite COVID-19

Loadmasters with the 36th Airlift Squadron out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, watch as the four Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian assistance bundles they just airdropped parachute down to those in need during Operation Christmas Drop 2019, at Nomwin, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 13, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)
Loadmasters with the 36th Airlift Squadron out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, watch as the four Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian assistance bundles they just airdropped parachute down to those in need during Operation Christmas Drop 2019, at Nomwin, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 13, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

US, Japan to kick off Operation Christmas Drop despite COVID-19

by Tech. Sgt. Nick Wilson
Andersen Air Force Base

The U.S., and Japan are set to kick off Operation Christmas Drop 2020 (OCD 20) from Andersen Air Force Base (AFB), Guam, Dec. 5-11.

OCD 20 is the 69th iteration of the Department of Defense’s longest annual bilateral humanitarian and disaster relief (HA/DR) training mission. During the mission, Airmen conduct Low-Cost Low-Altitude (LCLA) air drops from C-130 Hercules aircraft over un-surveyed drop zones to deliver supplies to more than 20,000 people residing on 55 Micronesian islands spread out across a 1.8 million square nautical mile operating area.

The primary U.S. Air Force (USAF) units and aircraft tasked to support include: C-130J Super Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron, 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base, 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing (AMOW) from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and 36th Wing at Andersen AFB. The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) will also participate in OCD 20 and marks the sixth year in a row the JASDF have participated.

This year, despite the pandemic, Airmen from both the USAF and JASDF worked hard to make this year a success. There are strict measures to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19, and contact between the two militaries will be limited. Airmen from both countries will wear mask, practice social distancing and hand washing.

“We’re taking deliberate steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during this year’s iteration of Operation Christmas Drop by following CDC COVID-19 guidelines and implementing approved sanitation measures for all donations,” said Col. Robert Craig-Gray, Pacific Air Forces Chief Flight Surgeon. “Socially-distanced teams wearing recommended protective gear on shift work will prepare the donations in bundles which will all be disinfected prior to delivery across the islands. Every effort is being made to keep all participants and recipients involved safe and healthy so we can continue to carry out this amazing tradition of humanitarian assistance.”

OCD 20 aerial delivery will enable USAF and JASDF aircrews to maintain and develop combat readiness through aircraft generation and recovery, while delivering donations provided by private donors, charitable organizations and the University of Guam.

“Operation Christmas Drop is a once in a lifetime training opportunity for any, and all, that participate,” said Maj. Joseph Spitz, 36th Airlift Squadron, Yakota Air Base, Japan Assistant Director of Operations and OCD 20 mission commander. “For nearly 70 years, we have been working in concert with a wide variety of Pacific units to execute this mission; it is truly a testament to our commitment in the Indo-Pacific Region.

“Since this operation started, at least a million pounds of charitable goods have been donated to the islanders of Micronesia and Palau; we look forward to carrying on this tradition in its 69th year and will look to continue it for many, many years to come,” Spitz added.

Additionally, OCD 20 will strengthen alliances by promoting peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The U.S.-Japan Alliance cannot be understated,” Spitz explained. “This being a bilateral event, during a global pandemic, confirms the strength of the U.S.-Japan relationship.

“Our mutual trust reinforces both our security architecture as regional partners and serves to build new partnerships, Pacific wide, as we strengthen multilateral cooperation,” Spitz continued. “Operation Christmas Drop is one of many exercises where US and Japan forces train side by side; it underscores our long history of bilateral training engagements while presenting an opportunity to learn from each other as we galvanize our readiness capabilities.”

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