The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) is delivering lifesaving aid and supplies across the Pacific as part of Operation Christmas Drop.
The annual operation, based out of Guam, reaches more than 20,000 people across more than 50 remote islands throughout the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.
RNZAF No. 40 Squadron, with a Hercules C-130 aircraft and crew, is participating in the operation based at Guam’s United States Air Force base, Andersen Air Force Base, along with other air forces, including Australia and Japan.
Now in its 71st year, Operation Christmas Drop is the United States Department of Defense’s longest-running humanitarian airlift operation. The tradition began in 1952, when, in the spirit of Christmas, the first bundle of supplies was parachuted to the island of Kapingamarangi, 5,600km southwest of Hawaii.
For the flight crews, the operation provides readiness training and interoperability with international partners in humanitarian and disaster relief operational capabilities, while providing critical supplies to populations in need.
The RNZAF first participated in the operation in 2019 and was pleased to return after a break due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“Coming out of the Covid environment, Operation Christmas Drop provides us with the opportunity to re-engage with our international partners while delivering meaningful aid to the people of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau,” said Air Component Commander Air Commodore Shaun Sexton.
“The RNZAF is keen to enter into the spirit of Christmas by being part of the operation and to be working with our military partners, bringing some Christmas cheer but also delivering much-needed items to the people on these islands,” he said.
Private donors and charitable organisations provide the contents of the loads, which include supplies such as large bags of rice, tinned goods, fishing and snorkelling equipment, school books, clothing, footwear and toys.
RNZAF aircraft captain Flight Lieutenant Michal-louise Paget says the RNZAF crew have included some ‘Kiwi treats’ in the bundles this year, including New Zealand chocolate.
“We are very grateful to be a part of such a collaborative and giving opportunity,” she said.
“The chance to work alongside international partners maintaining our interoperability as well as providing live airdrop training is invaluable. Being part of an operation established in 1952 that annually delivers aid to isolated communities is one none of us will forget.
“We look forward to bringing some Christmas cheer to the islands with an added touch of Kiwi.”