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OCD 2019 is here and Santa’s C-130s are ready to fly

Airmen from the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron

Airmen from the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron and 36th Airlift Squadron out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, prepare to load a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundle onto a C-130J Super Hercules as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. Every December crews from Yokota Air Base, Japan, team up with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal New Zealand Air Force to airdrop supplies to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Senior Airman Lauren Shaw

Senior Airman Lauren Shaw, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, secures a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundle onto a C-130J Super Hercules as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. OCD serves as a training platform for the U.S. Air Force and its partners to better train for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief through the use of LCLA airdrops on unsurveyed drop zones throughout the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

An Airman with the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron

An Airman with the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron from Yokota Air Base, Japan, positions equipment in preparation to load a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundle onto a C-130J Super Hercules as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. OCD is a quadrilateral training mission designed to give C-130 crews from the U.S. Air Force, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal New Zealand Air Force a chance to airdrop supplies on unsurveyed drop zones throughout the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Airmen from the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron

Airmen from the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron and 36th Airlift Squadron out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, prepare to load a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundle onto a C-130J Super Hercules as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. Every December crews from Yokota Air Base, Japan, team up with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal New Zealand Air Force to airdrop supplies to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore))

Airmen with the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron

Airmen with the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron from Yokota Air Base, Japan, prepare to load a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundle onto a C-130J Super Hercules as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. In its 68th year, OCD is the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, providing critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands, impacting approximately 20,000 people across 1.8 million square nautical miles of operating area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Staff Sgt. Deondre Rogers

Staff Sgt. Deondre Rogers, left, and Senior Airman Toby Hayes, right, both 36th Airlift Squadron loadmasters out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, load a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundle onto a C-130J Super Hercules as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. Each year, OCD serves as a proving ground for the techniques used and shared between the U.S. Air Force and its regional partners in preparation to respond to natural disasters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Tech. Sgt. Mario Montoya

Tech. Sgt. Mario Montoya, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, connects the parachute of a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundle onto a C-130J Super Hercules as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. In its 68th year, OCD is the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, providing critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands, impacting approximately 20,000 people across 1.8 million square nautical miles of operating area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Pilots of Santa 01

Pilots of Santa 01, a C-130J Super Hercules out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, work to input the data of an unsurveyed drop zone into their system during a practice drop as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. OCD is a quadrilateral training mission designed to give C-130 crews from the U.S. Air Force, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal New Zealand Air Force a chance to airdrop supplies on unsurveyed drop zones throughout the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

1st. Lt. Gautam Venkataraman

1st. Lt. Gautam Venkataraman, 36th Airlift Squadron pilot and Santa 01 co-pilot out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, navigates a C-130J Super Hercules to the drop zone during a practice drop as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. OCD is a quadrilateral training mission designed to give C-130 crews from the U.S. Air Force, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal New Zealand Air Force a chance to airdrop supplies on unsurveyed drop zones throughout the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Tech. Sgt. Mario Montoya
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Tech. Sgt. Mario Montoya, right, and Senior Airman Lauren Shaw, left, both 36th Airlift Squadron loadmasters out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, go over their pre-drop checklist one final time before delivering a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundle during a practice drop as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. Each year, OCD serves as a proving ground for the techniques used and shared between the U.S. Air Force and its regional partners in preparation to respond to natural disasters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Tech. Sgt. Mario Montoya
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Tech. Sgt. Mario Montoya, left, and Senior Airman Lauren Shaw, right, both 36th Airlift Squadron loadmasters out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, go over their pre-drop checklist one final time before delivering a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundle during a practice drop as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. Through training with LCLA bundles, the U.S. Air Force and its partners, the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal New Zealand Air Force are able to deliver humanitarian aid to more than 20,000 people throughout the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

LCLA
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Tech. Sgt. Mario Montoya, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, collects any remaining debris after dropping a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundle during a practice drop as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. OCD serves as a training platform for the U.S. Air Force and its partners to better train for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief through the use of LCLA airdrops on unsurveyed drop zones throughout the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

LCLA
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Tech. Sgt. Mario Montoya, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, cuts free a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundle during a practice drop as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. OCD is a quadrilateral training mission designed to give C-130 crews from the U.S. Air Force, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal New Zealand Air Force a chance to airdrop supplies on unsurveyed drop zones throughout the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Maj. Ryan Wells, 36th Airlift Squadron pilot
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Maj. Ryan Wells, 36th Airlift Squadron pilot and aircraft commander of Santa 01 out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, navigates a C-130J Super Hercules to an unsurveyed drop zone during a practice drop as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 5, 2019. In its 68th year, OCD is the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, providing critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands, impacting approximately 20,000 people across 1.8 million square nautical miles of operating area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --

As the seasons change, December often times leads to trees without leaves, snow, and frigid air signaling what is the holiday season. For the island of Guam and many others scattered throughout the Pacific, the holiday season is marked not by the arrival of the more traditional winter, but that of the arrival of C-130s in the sky.

Now in its 68th year, Operation Christmas Drop 2019 has become a yearly ritual of holiday cheer, humanitarian aid, and vital training between the U.S. Air Force and its allies in the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and the newest addition of the Royal New Zealand Air Force to better prepare for future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts in the Pacific, all the while providing critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands, impacting 20,000 lives across a 1.8 million square nautical miles of operating area.

Before that training and OCD officially begin, Santa 01 and other practice airdrop flights take to the skies to get their first taste of the unsurveyed drop zones they will encounter throughout the course of the event.

“The practice drops we do actually have a lot of advantages,” said Maj. Ryan Wells, 36th Airlift Squadron pilot and aircraft commander of Santa 01 out of Yokota Air Base, Japan. “Each aircraft conducted 3 simulated surveys of islands to determine where to best place our Low-Cost, Low-Altitude practice bundles and one actual practice drop off Guam to ensure we were hitting our target.

“It’s a team effort between the entire crew to make that happen. We need to communicate with our loadmasters to figure out how to drop the bundle in a position that is safe, but also easily retrievable for those we are providing aid.”

A task that is no simple feat on islands that often times have not been flown over since the previous year’s delivery of goods.

“As time goes by and the people on these islands move around or in some instances, the emergence of new infrastructure can really throw off our initially planned drop zone,” said Senior Airman Lauren Shaw, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster and crew member of Santa 01. “When that happens we need to adapt to the situation and quickly come up with a new drop zone as a team. OCD really solidifies our trust in one another as part of the crew, a chance for us further gel in a real-world training environment.”

For the members of Santa 01 and the rest of the C-130 crews in attendance, the practice drops mark just the beginning of what’s to come as OCD continues for the next week and half.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do in getting these supplies out to the people that need them,” said Wells. “In doing that, as we have in OCD’s in years passed, we are going to build on that trust not just among our crews, but among all of the nations participating. As we each complete the mission, we can to grow to rely on one another’s capability and ability to get the job done. It’s that level of trust we foster here that will make the difference when the time comes to respond to disaster relief or humanitarian aid needs throughout the Pacific.”

Before that trust can further blossom, and for everyone awaiting supplies in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau, Santa’s C-130s are ready to fly and will be in your area spreading holiday cheer shortly.