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71 Years of 'Love From Above'

For residents of dozens of islands in the Pacific, Christmas comes a little bit early every year, and children scan the skies not for a sleigh, but for U.S. Air Force planes, dropping holiday packages by parachute.

Bundles attached to parachutes descend over a green landscape as an aircraft flies nearby.
Woleai Delivery
An Air Force C-130J Super Hercules delivers humanitarian aid bundles filled with needed supplies to Woleai, Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019, as part of Operation Christmas Drop.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore
VIRIN: 191210-F-GA541-0492Y

Operation Christmas Drop, as it's called, delivers needed supplies — food, tools, medical supplies — to people living in some of the most remote places on the globe, as well as toys, books and other holiday gifts. The operation just wrapped its 71st year, making it the Defense Department's longest-running humanitarian airlift operation. 

An airman dressed as Santa Claus guides rows of large military aircraft on a runway.
Santa Supervision
Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Furnary uses a radio to communicate with C-130 pilots during Operation Christmas Drop at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 10, 2022.
Photo By: Yasuo Osakabe, Air Force
VIRIN: 221210-F-PM645-4491
Residents carry a box of humanitarian supplies on their shoulders.
Drop Recovery
Residents carry a box of humanitarian supplies from the air drop site to their village on Fais Island during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Donald Hudson
VIRIN: 181210-F-EZ530-0367
Andersen Air Force Base in Guam is the base camp for Christmas Drop. Participating C-130 aircraft and crews convene there, and service members and volunteers from the community gather every year to decorate packaging and build bundles from the tons of donations that pour in — 209 bundles this year, weighing more than 75,000 pounds total. 

Indo-Pacific partner nations have also joined the operation in recent years; this year U.S. troops worked with counterparts from Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. For participating service members, Christmas Drop serves as valuable training in airlifting supplies to austere locations.

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force member puts clothing into an air bundle.
Bundling Donations
A member of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force puts donated clothing into an air bundle for Operation Christmas Drop 2018 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 8, 2018. Operation Christmas Drop is a trilateral training mission designed to give U.S., Japanese and Australian C-130 Hercules crews a chance to airdrop supplies on unsurveyed drop zones throughout the Pacific.
Photo By: Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore
VIRIN: 181208-F-GA541-0066
Air Force pilot oversees supply drops during Operation Christmas Drop 2018.
Christmas Drop
Air Force 1st. Lt. Emery Gumapas, a pilot assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron, looks out the flight deck window of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Operation Christmas Drop 2018 en route to Nama Island in Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2018.
Photo By: Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore
VIRIN: 181210-F-GA541-0084
Boxes tied to parachutes land near the shore of an ocean.
Aid Drop
Airmen drop humanitarian aid bundles as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2022 over Chuuk, Micronesia, Dec. 9, 2022.
Photo By: Yasuo Osakabe, Air Force
VIRIN: 221209-F-PM645-0009
But as the "Love From Above" catchphrase associated with the operation suggests, it's much more than that too.

"It seems like as you get older, Christmas kinda loses its luster a little bit, but for the Pacific Islanders out here, the magic of Christmas is very real," one Air Force participant said.

"When we go and drop these bundles ... seeing videos ... of the children screaming and waving and just running to the box and ready to open their Christmas presents — to be a part of that is quite magical."

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