MIGHTY CULTURE
Ryan Pickrell

See the Air Force play Santa for thousands of islanders

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

For people living on remote islands across the Pacific, Christmas is the sound of C-130s roaring overhead as boxes of food, clothing, toys, and more parachuted from the holds drop down from the sky.

Here's what it looked like this year.


Operation Christmas Drop, which began during the holiday season in 1952 as a spur-of-the-moment decision by a B-29 Superfortress crew, is the Department of Defense's longest-running humanitarian airlift operation.

The patch of Operation Christmas Drop 2018 rests on the flight suit of a pilot from the 374th Airlift Wing as he and his crew delivers Coastal Humanitarian Air Drops to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Source: Andersen Air Force Base

Now in its 67th year, the OCD mission is supported by the US Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard, as well as members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force. It serves over 50 remote islands in the Pacific.

U.S. Air Force 1st. Lt. Emery Gumapas, a pilot assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, looks out the flight deck window of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Operation Christmas Drop 2018 en route to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Source: Indo-Pacific Command

The first drop all those years ago began with a B-29 crew dropping supplies to waving locals on Kapingamarangi island. The program now helps tens of thousands of people living on 56 islands across an area of 1.8 million square nautical miles annually.

Three villages await Operation Christmas Drop on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2018. A C-130J Super Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, delivered more than 1000 pounds of agricultural equipment, food, clothing, educational and medical supplies to the inhabitants of Fais during Operation Christmas Drop 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

Source: Indo-Pacific Command

US military C-130J Super Hercules aircrews conduct low-cost, low-altitude drops, with parachuted packages touching down on land or at sea, the latter sometimes being necessary to avoid unintended damage to the environment or property.

A C-130J Super Hercules with the 36th Airlift Squadron drops three Low-Cost Low-Altitude bundles filled with humanitarian aid supplies during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

Source: Andersen Air Force Base

For OCD 2018, military and civilian organizers collected 62,000 pounds of food, clothing, and other supplies for around 30,000 islanders.

Two Low-Cost Low-Altitude bundles filled with humanitarian supplies float to the ground during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

Source: US Navy

"My father experienced this drop when he was a little kid back in '77, I believe, and in that drop, he got his first pair of shoes," airman Brandon Phillip recently said. "I get to give back to my dad's island while serving my country. It just makes it all special."

Islanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies from the air-drop site to their village center during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

Source: Department of Defense

Many military personnel and civilian volunteers work for months putting together packages for the annual OCD drops across the Pacific.

Islanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies from the air-drop site to their village center during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

Source: US Navy

The OCD supply drop came a little over a month after the Marianas were hammered by the 180 mph winds of Super Typhoon Yutu, the worst storm to hit any part of the US since 1935.

Islanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies through their village during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

Source: The Washington Post

The islanders use every part of the delivery, including the parachutes and parachute cords. They reportedly use the parachutes to make boat sails.

Island children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

Source: Stars and Stripes

"This is what Christmas is for," Bruce Best, who has been part of the OCD mission for four decades, told Stars and Stripes. "When they hear the rumble of the plane engines, that’s Christmas."

Island children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

Source: Stars and Stripes

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.