|President Christian signs a bundle of donated goods for the children of the island of Saliap & Woleai. photo courtesy: DVIDS|
At the invitation of the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces, General Robinson, President of the FSM, Peter Christian, joined the aircrew of “Santa 63” on December 13, 2015. The mission was the air delivery of donated Christmas gifts in support of Operation Christmas Drop, 2015.
President Christian received an executive preflight briefing from Brigadier General Toth, Commander of the 36th Wing, and his staff at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The seven hour mission took off from Guam and conducted multiple low altitude airdrops to several outer island communities in the FSM State of Yap. These islands and atoll’s included: Satawal, Lamotrek, Elato, Faraulep, and Woleiai.
In addition to observing the operation first hand from the cockpit and cargo compartment of the U.S. Air Force Japan based C-130 Hercules, the President also ‘suited up’ and pushed the first two boxes of gift contributions out of the aircraft to the community of Satawal. This marked the first time for an FSM President’s ‘hands-on’ participation in the operation.
Operation Christmas Drop is the longest running Humanitarian Assistance mission in the history of the U.S. Department of Defense; reportedly originating with an airdrop mission to the outer island of Kapingamarangi, Pohnpei, in 1952. The annual operation runs for more than a week, and provides holiday gift deliveries throughout the outer islands of Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau. Contributions and donations for this mission are an ongoing effort for the entire year leading up to the annual operation.
Of note, for the first time in the operation’s history, aircraft and personnel of the Japan Air Self Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force joined their U.S. Air Force counterparts in conducting these missions in support of the FSM and Republic of Palau regions. In follow-on correspondence to General Toth, President Christian expressed appreciation for the generosity of all contributors, and for the efforts put forth to plan and successfully execute the operation. He further encouraged that future Humanitarian Assistance operations in this region should continue to maintain the same kind of multilateral and international character of this year’s support operation.