the Alaska National Guard led the 66th Operation Santa Claus again this year, delivering gifts to children in remote Alaskan villages.
Gifts were delivered to Buckland on December 14, while a flight to Chevak was repeatedly delayed due to bad weather. Efforts to deliver Santa’s packages to the small community will resume shortly after the holidays.
ANG, in partnership with the Salvation Army, has taken the same measures COVID-19[feminine des précautions pour assurer la sécurité comme l’année dernière mais reste déterminé à partager l’esprit des fêtes avec près de 650 enfants. Les soldats de la Garde nationale de l’Alaska et les aviateurs ont aidé à emballer, charger, transférer et décharger la cargaison.
« Opération Père Noël [Claus] has been going on for 66 years, ”said Air National Guard Maj. Chelsea Aspelund, 176 Wing public affairs chief. “It started in 1956 in St. Mary’s after the Alaska National Guard responded to a request for help following extreme floods and droughts that impacted subsistence fishing and hunting. in the community. “
Despite the difficulties and uncertainty of the pandemic during last year’s delivery season, the mission continued with some mitigation procedures, such as limiting contacts and minimizing the number of people involved. .
“It is important that Operation Santa continues because it is an opportunity for the Alaska National Guard to reach rural Alaska and really demonstrate our ability to be there to support communities,” Aspelund said. .
The isolated villages chosen to participate in the operation are selected based on several factors, including the difficulties encountered by the community.
“It’s a bit difficult for [the villages] to enjoy a Christmas like before with everything going on, ”said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Sallaffie, Bethel National Guard Armory Installations Clerk. “It makes a difference.”
This year’s holiday delivery included 4,420 pounds of backpacks, books, school supplies, snacks, toothbrushes, toothpaste and gifts categorized by age.
Pallets of cardboard boxes were loaded onto a HC-130J Combat King II plane to Joint base Elmendorf-Richardson, transported on December 2 to Bethel and Nome and staged for later delivery by helicopter to the two remote villages. The fixed-wing aircraft is used first because of its ability to transport more cargo faster.
The gifts arrived in Buckland after being transported 139 miles northeast of Nome on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on December 14. A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter will transport the gifts 118 miles northwest of Bethel to the village of Shevak once weather permits.
The Alaska National Guard and The Salvation Army are engaged in Operation Santa Claus “to help maintain and build trust and partnership with others throughout the state,” Aspelund said.
“It means a lot [to the children]”Sallaffie said.” Bringing gifts to villages in these difficult times is quite impressive. “