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Reservists bundle Christmas joy for remote islanders

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Theanne Herrmann, 624th Regional Support Group Public Affairs
  • 624th Regional Support Group Public Affairs

Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 44th Aerial Port Squadron here, alongside the people of Guam, worked hand-in-hand filling boxes full of critical supplies Dec. 9 as part of Operation Christmas Drop.

For the first time OCD will be using the U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules aircraft to air drop bundles to 56 islands in Micronesia to continue the longest running humanitarian airlift operation in the history of the Department of Defense impacting the lives of more than 20,000 islanders.

Each year since 1952, islanders located 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 Staff Sgt. Kaija Garrido, air transportation specialist, of 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.”

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 Lt. Col. Melvin Ibaretta, 624th Regional Support Group deputy commander.

After the hustle and bustle of gathering 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 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].”

OCD 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,” said Superales-Garridao. “I’m doing a lot of hands-on training on the cargo and air freight side of the house helping me become well rounded in my career field.”

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

“Living, working and training here brings everyone together,” said 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.”