With humanitarian aid delivered and Santa’s C-130s set to return home, Operation Christmas Drop 2019 has come to a close.
Over the past week and a half C-130 aircrews from the U.S. Air Force, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (Koku Jietai), Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal New Zealand Air Force teamed up to work out of their “North Pole” headquarters at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to airdrop 176 bundles, totaling 70,000 lbs of cargo to 20,000 people on some of the most remote islands in the world.
For these 20,000 people, the 176 bundles carried critical supplies of food, medicine, and other items necessary for survival until next year’s delivery, all the while providing aircrews vital training on the techniques used and shared between the nations to better respond to natural disasters in the Indo-Pacific region.
“From a tactical perspective, this is incredibly valuable training for our aircrews,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Dan Moss, 36th Airlift Squadron OCD mission commander out of Yokota Air Base, Japan. “It isn’t everyday we get to drop Low-Cost, Low-Altitude bundles via dynamic delivery on unsurveyed drop zones. This gives our aircraft commanders and their crews the opportunity to go out and determine where and how it is best to deliver these bundles to places they have never been to before. It requires our teams to make quick decisions after analyzing environmental factors such as the topography, wind, and tides.
“These are the skills that we have had to use in the past and will continue to use moving forward. Last year when an earthquake hit the Republic of Palau and the Indonesian area, we were there to support them with the dynamic delivery we’ve practiced in OCDs past, getting supplies to those in need.”
Now in its 68th year, OCD stands as the longest running humanitarian aid airdrop training mission in the world. While its history is long, only in its most recent years has the operation expanded to include the JASDF and RAAF, with the further expansion this year to include the RNZAF. Despite the event changing over time, OCD continues a tradition of not only helping those in need, but working with our partner nations to better meet the ever evolving needs of the region.
“It’s important to work together,” said RAAF FLT LT Andrew Clark, 37th Squadron C-130J Super Hercules pilot out of RAAF Base Richmond, Australia. “The training we do here with our allies is going to allow us to seamlessly work as one to support each other down the line. Coming to OCD and working with our partner nations to practice these LCLA airdrops, it gives us an opportunity to share and learn the best practices of doing so, it allows each of us to better respond in the event of any natural disaster.”
While the sharing of best practices has helped the crews develop the skills needed to do the job, it has also allowed participating countries the ability to build upon the relationships and confidence amongst the crews and their respective nations.
“With the JASDF, U.S., RAAF, and RNZAF coming together, we are able to improve our capability when it comes to disaster relief operations,” said JASDF Lt. Col. Midori Higuchi, 1st Tactical Airlift Wing, 401st Squadron C-130 Hercules aircraft commander out of Komaki Air Base, Japan. “This joint training allows us to harmonize our actions as one. When we are one, our ability to make a difference when it matters most is amplified and that is the true strength of the partnerships formed at OCD.”
With the bundles dropped, experienced gained, relationships built and supplies delivered, it was the Christmas spirit of helping others that would prove to leave a lasting impression on all of the crews that participated.
“We have a lot of airdrop experience and training but it was nice being able to come out here and use that skillset to help others,” said RNZAF FLT LT Tim Jones, 40 Squadron C-130 pilot and aircraft commander of Santa 29 out of RNZAF Base Auckland, New Zealand. “Knowing the goods we are delivering means so much to these people, hearing the appreciation in their voices and the cheers of “Merry Christmas” over the radio, OCD is such a rewarding experience to be a part of.”
It is that goodwill in tandem with the valuable training provided that will keep OCD going for years to come. Until the 69th OCD kicks off next December, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and we’ll see you next year.