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Volunteers complete annual Operation Christmas Drop

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFPN) -- More than 150 volunteers helped complete the world's longest running humanitarian airdrop Dec. 19, commemorating the 54th Annual Operation Christmas Drop that reached more than 50 remote Pacific islands.

Gen. Douglas H. Owens, 36th Wing commander, kicked off the operation with a ceremony that included words of thanks and encouragement from a native of Eauripik, an Outer Yap island, who is now a Petty Officer in the Navy.

"We have no airstrips or major ports on our remote islands," said Petty Officer 2nd Class John Taibemal. "It's a yearlong wait for these items, and for most of us it's the only way to obtain new clothes and Christmas gifts."

Operation Christmas Drop is truly a team effort, bringing together volunteers from across Andersen, including the 734th Air Mobility Squadron here, crews and aircraft from the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, and spirited members of the Guam community.

"This is a wonderful event to be a part of," said Patty Arroyo, a Guam radio personality. "Not only are we helping families and communities that really appreciate the assistance, but we show how well the civilian and military communities can work together."

Since 1952, the Christmas drop operations have delivered more than 800,000 pounds of supplies, according to organizational data.

This year the operation delivered 140 boxes to 59 islands. Boxes included new or serviceable clothes, fishing and snorkeling equipment, non-battery operated toys and non-perishable foods, among other items.

More than $27,000 in funds were raised through the Marianas Classic 5K Run/Walk, a golf tournament, and box sponsorships at local businesses and units on base. More than 150 volunteers helped pack the boxes that were dropped Dec. 16-19 from three C-130 Hercules aircraft.

"It's an honor for me to be a part of this ceremony," said Petty Officer Taibemal. "My wife and I have both benefited from this operation. It reminds us on the islands that there are people beyond the horizon with big hearts. It also offers hope that we can give back (through military) service, or some way."

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