Once a year, a few lucky American airmen get to play Santa Claus. Since 1952 the US Military has been flying over the islands of Micronesia around Christmastime and dropping donated goods down to the villagers who live there. After 60 years, Operation Christmas Drop is the longest running humanitarian airlift mission in the world.

“This is the mission at Yokota [Air Base, Japan] that everyone wants to go on,” said Capt. Dereck Monnier, a 36th Airlift Squadron pilot and aircraft commander. “We work really hard to practice these airdrops, and this is the opportunity to do a real-world mission that’s actually doing some good.”

In an attempt to learn more about how Operation Christmas Drop is perceived in Micronesia, Master Sgt. Cameron Leslie took a missionary flight to the remote chain and spent two weeks among the residents.

"My goal was to capture Operation Christmas Drop from the islander’s perspective,” he said. “They don’t have much of anything … it’s not like they take trips to buy something. The further you go out on these tiny island chains, the more primitive it gets … and the less they have.”

Leslie reports that the goods, in particular fishing tackle, flippers, snorkels and spears for spear fishing, are much appreciated by the islanders. He was also impressed by how evenly they distribute the gifts among themselves.

Here's a video about the long-running Christmas tradition and the Micronesian Christmas spirit. It feels good to know people are spreading Christmas cheer all around the world. Merry Christmas!