U.S. AIR FORCE VIA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
A parachute opened and delivered food and other supplies for residents on the remote Pacific island of Polowat on Sunday. The Air Force delivered about 25,000 pounds of food, medicine and clothes to remote islands of Micronesia earlier this week as part of its annual Christmas airdrop.
Christmas airdrop falls on remote Micronesia atolls
The Air Force uses parachutes to deliver the items to the islands' inhabitants
The Air Force dropped food, medicine and clothes to thousands of inhabitants of remote atolls in Micronesia this week as part of its annual Christmas airdrop.
Three C-130 planes parachuted the packages to 55 outer islands in Palau, Chuuk, Yap and Pohnpei, Capt. Michael McVay, the mission's coordinator at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, said yesterday.
The planes also dropped goods to the more remote isles of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands during the four-day mission that began Sunday.
Many of the islands do not have airstrips, and the only way they normally receive goods is by ships that infrequently make port calls. Most of the islands have populations of between 500 to 1,000.
"These islands are really small. They have no power, no water, no cars. To acquire these items, it's not easy," said Verna Marquez, the extension assistant at the University of Guam's distance learning department. "That's why they really look forward to it."
The university spoke with the islanders over single sideband radio to find out what they needed. She said most asked for rice, fishing gear and canned food.
The Air Force then gathered donations from Guam residents and the U.S. territory's Navy and Air Force communities.
Guam's Rotary Club gave 10 fishing nets, while the student government at Andersen Middle School donated more than $1,000 worth of toys, games and tools.
Altogether, the Air Force dropped about 25,000 pounds of goods.
The airdrop started 53 years ago when the crew of an Air Force weather reconnaissance plane flying at low altitudes saw people waving at them from Kapingamarangi, an atoll about 400 miles south of the main Pohnpei island.
The plane turned around, and the crew dropped what they could in a makeshift parachute, McVay said.
The effort has since grown into an annual event covering islands around the region. Andersen Air Force Base arranges for U.S. planes to drop as much as they can with out-of-commission parachutes collected from Navy and Air Force units.
Last year, a typhoon and the need to deliver relief to tsunami-stricken areas in Indonesia and Thailand prevented the Air Force from carrying out the mission.
Marquez said her department instead arranged for shipping companies to donate space aboard their vessels to deliver the goods by sea.