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Reservists Bundle Christmas Joy for Remote Islanders

December 12, 2017

This report originally published at defense.gov.

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ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam, Dec. 12, 2017 — Air Force reservists from the 44th Aerial Port Squadron here worked alongside the people of Guam on Dec. 9, filling boxes full of critical supplies as part of Operation Christmas Drop.

For the first time, Operation Christmas Drop will be using the Air Force C-130J Super Hercules aircraft to airdrop bundles to 56 islands in Micronesia, continuing the longest-running humanitarian airlift operation in Defense Department history and affecting the lives of more than 20,000 islanders.

Each year since 1952, islanders in remote locations have seen their annual Christmas bundles full of rice, fish hooks, educational materials, clothing, toys and other items dropped from military aircraft the same way troops receive supplies during combat operations.

“This is my first Operation Christmas Drop, and it’s been a blast,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Kaija Garrido, an air transportation specialist from Sinajana, Guam. “I love being able to see everyone from the community, active duty and Air Force Reserve come out as one to take part in this operation. I love that we are helping people from the outer islands who can use all of these supplies.”

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Personalized Messages

In addition to packing supplies, volunteers decorated the outside of the boxes by writing personalized holiday messages. “The supplies inside each box are very important, but I thought it was special seeing everyone putting ‘love’ into their personal handwritten messages,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Melvin Ibaretta, 624th Regional Support Group deputy commander.

After the hustle and bustle of filling the bundles ended and the volunteers headed home, members of the 44th APS and their active-duty counterparts at the 734th Air Mobility Squadron worked together to load the cargo onto aircraft.

“We assist the rigger team by tying the rigs onto the boxes and doing the weight measurements,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Josephine Superales-Garridao of Mangilao, Guam. “It’s important to know how much the boxes weigh to prevent any mission mishaps [during the drop].”

Operation Christmas Drop not only provides critical supplies, but also gives air transportation specialists the opportunity to learn new skills.

“I have experience in passenger services, so this gives me an opportunity to cross-train,” Superales-Garridao said. “I’m doing a lot of hands-on training on the cargo and air freight sides of the house, helping me become well-rounded in my career field.”

While the reservists are fine-tuning their air transportation skills, they also are building relationships with their active-duty counterparts during the operation.

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“Living, working and training here brings everyone together,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Russel Gohn, 734th AMS commander. “Our relationship built over time is one of the strengths we tout that helps our squadrons in both peacetime and wartime operations.”

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