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Merry Christmas Drop from Woleai

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercule

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, flies over a jungle canopy as it approaches an unsureveyed drop zone as part of its initial pass during Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019. In its 68th year, OCD is the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, providing critical supplies to 55 remote Micronesian islands like Woleai, 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)

The tail end of Woleai, an atoll

The tail end of Woleai, an atoll consisting of 22 islands in the eastern Caroline Islands in the Pacific Ocean, stands ready to receive five Low-Cost, Low-Altitude bundles as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019. Every December C-130 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 for OCD, a humanitarian aid and disaster relief training exercise designed to airdrop critical supplies to remote islands like Woleai throughout the FSM and the Republic of Palau. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, flies over the island of Woleai in the Federated States of Micronesia prior to dropping five Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundles as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Dec. 10, 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, increasing regional stability and security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, flies directly over the designated drop zone as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019. In its 68th year, OCD is the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, providing critical supplies to 55 remote Micronesian islands like Woleai, 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)

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, flies over the island of Woleai in the Federated States of Micronesia in preparation to drop five Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundles as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Dec. 10, 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, increasing regional stability and security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Five Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundles

Five Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundles are airdropped from a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, during Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019. Every December C-130 crews from the U.S.A.F. team up with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal New Zealand Air Force for OCD, a humanitarian aid and disaster relief training exercise designed to airdrop critical supplies to remote islands like Woleai throughout the FSM and the Republic of Palau. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, delivers five Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundles filled with critical supplies as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 to the island of Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019. In its 68th year, OCD is the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, providing critical supplies to 55 remote Micronesian islands like Woleai, 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)

A drawing of a C-130J Super Hercules airlifting supplie

A drawing of a C-130J Super Hercules airlifting supplies rests on the top of a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundle delivered during Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019. Every December C-130 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 for OCD, a humanitarian aid and disaster relief training exercise designed to airdrop critical supplies to remote islands like Woleai throughout the FSM and the Republic of Palau. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

A villager climb

A villager climbs atop a tree to cut free the parachute of a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude bundle airdropped to the island as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019. With limited goods regularly coming to such remote islands like Woleai, 20,000 people on islands scattered throughout the Pacific rely on the critical supplies OCD provides. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

A pair of villagers
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A pair of villagers stand atop two Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundles airdropped to the island of Woleai in the Federated States of Micronesia during Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Dec. 10, 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)

A villager looks up
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A villager looks up at a parachute of a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude bundle trapped in tree as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 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 like Woleai, throughout the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

A group of six villagers
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A group of six villagers work together to carry a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundle through the jungle as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 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, increasing regional stability and security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

A group of six villagers work togethe
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A group of six villagers work together to carry a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundle through the jungle as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 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, increasing regional stability and security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Villagers on the island of Wolea
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Villagers on the island of Woleai in the Federated States of Micronesia retrieve one of five Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundles airdropped to them as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Dec. 10, 2019. In its 68th year, OCD is the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, providing critical supplies to 55 remote Micronesian islands like Woleai, 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)

A group of villagers
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A group of villagers work together to carry a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundle through the jungle as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 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)

A group of villagers
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A group of villagers work together to carry a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundle through the jungle as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 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)

Two children
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Two children stare through a screened window as the village elders on the island of Woleai in the Federated States of Micronesia sort through the supplies received during Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Dec. 10, 2019. With OCD delivering five bundles of humanitarian aid to Woleai, it is the duty of the elders to ensure the critical supplies received are evenly distributed throughout the island’s populace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Matthew Gilmore)

Village children
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Village children stare through a window as the village elders sort through the supplies received during Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019. With OCD delivering five bundles of humanitarian aid to Woleai, it is the duty of the elders to ensure the critical supplies received are evenly distributed throughout the island’s populace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Matthew Gilmore)

Village children
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Village children stare through a window as a village elder sorts through the supplies received during Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019. With OCD delivering five bundles of humanitarian aid to Woleai, it is the duty of the elders to ensure the critical supplies received are evenly distributed throughout the island’s populace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Matthew Gilmore)

Pile number 19
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Pile number 19 waits to be given to a family by the village chief after humanitarian aid and supplies were delivered by U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019 on the island of Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 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, increasing regional stability and security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

A pair of village elders
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A pair of village elders on the island of Woleai in the Federated States of Micronesia, sort through one of five Low-Cost, Low-Altitude bundles airdropped as part Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Dec. 10, 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)

A village elder sorts
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A village elder sorts a pair of shoes and some fishing line out from a pile of goods delivered via a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude bundle as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 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, increasing regional stability and security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

A group of village elders
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A group of village elders on the island of Woleai in the Federated States of Micronesia, sort the five Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian aid bundles airdropped as part Operation Christmas Drop 2019 into 78 evenly distributed piles to be given to the families that make up the 500 person village, Dec. 10, 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 islands like Woleai throughout the FSM and the Republic of Palau. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

A young child
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A young child enjoys a snack as one of the bonus items donated to and included in a Low-Cost, Low-Altitude humanitarian airdrop as part of Operation Christmas Drop 2019, Woleai, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2019. Every December C-130 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 for OCD, a humanitarian aid and disaster relief training exercise designed to airdrop critical supplies to remote islands like Woleai throughout the FSM and the Republic of Palau. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --

“Santa 31 is headed your way!!”

For those on the island of Woleai in the Federated States of Micronesia and other islands throughout the FSM and the Republic of Palau, it’s radio calls like that from the North Pole at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, that make Christmas come a little early every year thanks to Santa’s C-130’s participating in Operation Christmas Drop.

“When we get that call saying it's our drop day and word gets out, the island has a different feel to it,” said Allentino Riugiufmal, Northern Islands Central High School vice principal on Woleai. “The island just has this pure feeling of excitement that is shared across the community, like a child just waiting to see what’s under the tree.

“After the news is radio’d in its just a matter of time before the only C-130 we see all year long to grace our skies, delivering the bundles we’ve come to rely on throughout the years. When the day finally does come, and that plane is in the sky, it’s just like Christmas has come early.”

In now its 68th year, OCD has not only served as the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, providing critical supplies to 55 Micronesian islands like Woleia, but has also served as a coming together for elders and their communities on their respective islands across 1.8 million square nautical miles throughout the Pacific.

It is that gathering of the elders to determine who gets what goods that has created so many memories for all who have shared in the OCD magic, memories that have lasted almost as long as OCD itself.

“Every Christmas Drop is special for the island,” said Santos Bugoman, an 18-year resident of Woleai. “We all have our own memories of OCDs past. I got my first pair of shoes in one of my first Christmas Drops and it’s something I will always remember and cherish. I wore them until I had completely outgrown them and blisters were forming because they were too small. Maybe I was being just a little bit sentimental, but they were so special to me I didn’t want to let go of them.”

While memories of toys and shoes are what the children cherish, for the elders it is the food, medicine, and other supplies that have meant the most over the years.

“We all have childhood memory of seeing the planes fly over head,” said Riugiufmal. “As we each grew older we truly understood how important OCD is for the islands. These bundles have toys, yes, but they more importantly carry bags of rice to help feed the 500 villagers we have here. The parachutes and their rigging is used to make sails for our boats and the wire for our spear guns. Some of our bundles were sent solely for our school and contained the educational supplies our students need to thrive.

“Those items are what matter to us and what we appreciate most. Those items and OCD in general is what brings us together as community. I saw some of school children saying “Thank you Christmas Drop” for the camera. That does not do it justice. On behalf of everyone on this island, our Chiefs, our elders, our school children, thank you OCD, thank you for all that you have shared with us over the years.”