BECOME A MEMBER DONATE TODAY

Operation Christmas Drop (OCD) Lent a Hand by Pope Flight 48

by Col. Joe Fitzpatrick, USAF (Ret.), Harley H. Pope Flight 48 Captain

C-130 OCD Nose Art, 1992, courtesy of Lt.Col. Andy Applegate, USAF (Ret.)

I first heard about OCD 45 years ago, when I was stationed at Yokota AB, Japan flying C-130s.  The WC-130 weather folks at Anderson AFB flew these missions at the time.  OCD is DoD’s longest running humanitarian mission…. air dropping over 100,000 pounds to the Micronesia and Palau Islands supporting 20,000 islanders each year. This year OCD celebrates its 69th year!

Flash forward to 2020. I was discussing Flight Meeting program opportunities with our former member, Col. Kevin “K-Mart” Martin, 374th Ops Group Commander at Yokota. The Yokota wing currently flies the OCD missions each December.  Col. Martin offered a briefing from the 36th Airlift Squadron for our virtual online October meeting.  Lt.Col. Steve Massie, Squadron Commander, and Maj. Joe Spitz, this year’s Mission Commander gave us a great presentation. They talked about the history of the program, this being the 69th consecutive year, the number of bundles, and the scope of the AOR. 

 

Our flight was told that the most challenging part of the mission is the aerial delivery. Typically dropping from 300 feet, the bundles need to land on a sliver of beach.  Each bundle contains clothes, toys, fishing gear, tools and equipment.  Each flight has been guided for the last 40 years by Brother Bruce Best utilizing his HF radio and coordinating each drop between the ground and aircraft.

Prior to our online meeting, as we’ve done since COVID struck, we invited other flights to join in.  We heard from Lt.Col. Andy Applegate, USAF (Ret.), Traveler’s Flight Captain, who was the OCD Mission Commander in 1992.  He supplied us with several photos from the 40th anniversary in 1992.

Our flight members were so moved regarding OCD that we set up a fundraising drive with a goal of $1,000.  In just two weeks the flight raised $1,300.  According to Dean Atwa, OCD VP “Your donation contributed to five whole bundles… we are forever in debt to you!!!”  We’re told outside of physical donations, our flight was the largest monetary non-profit donor. 

 As a donor, we were offered to build our own bundles, but since we were unable to attend, Capt. Alex Randall from the 36th AS stepped in for us.  We received a nice note from Anthony Biecheler, the President of OCD.  He said “Wow!  We are truly humbled by the amount of support you have provided us!” 

Captain Robert Frisch attaching Flight label, courtesy of 374th OG

Each of our bundles had a Flight Label attached to the side, along with the Daedalian Emblem.  A Christmas note from the Flight was included in each bundle.  The bundle preparation this year was unique. Every volunteer had to wear masks and gloves and get their temperature checked upon entering the area. The bundles then sat for a 72 hour “cooling” period to make sure no residual COVID could remain on any surface in the bundle. Even with these safeguards in place, just prior to kick off this year, the OCD leadership announced that the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Federated States of Micronesia opted out of OCD this year due to COVID-related health concerns. This presented a unique opportunity to provide more aid to the citizens of Palau. This year the C-130 crews dropped 61 bundles to Republic of Palau islands.

C-130 prepares to drop Pope’s first bundle, courtesy of 374th OG 

Col. Martin, this year’s 374th AEG Commander, summed up Pope’s Daedalian Flight effort this way, “I had no doubt my former flight members would come through with such outstanding support.  I am so proud of my fellow Daedalians and the continued work they do to for the betterment of the global community in this case.”

The Pope Flight has budgeted to support OCD next year. If anyone else wants to assist next year, they can visit the OCD website at https://www.operationchristmasdrop.com for details.