Upon his arrival, children from the village of Akiachak embrace Santa with a warm welcome during Operation Santa Claus, Dec. 3, 2016. This year marked the 60th anniversary in which the Alaska National Guard supported Operation Santa Claus with logistics and air support, delivering holiday cheer and gifts to remote Alaska villages.
A team of Alaska National Guardsmen offload gifts, food and school supplies from a 144th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules, Dec. 3, 2016, in Akiachak, Alaska. The gifts were distributed to Akiachak residents as part of Operation Santa Claus.
Mr. and Mrs. Claus embrace a local Akiachak child during Operation Santa Claus, Dec. 3, 2016. The 144th Airlift Squadron supported the mission, marking the final Operation Santa Claus flown by an Alaska National Guard C-130 Hercules.
Commander of Alaskan Command, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, hands out fruit to an Akiachak student during Operation Santa Claus, Dec. 3. 2016. This year marked the 60th Anniversary of the Alaska National Guard community relations program. Guardsmen provide logistics and air support, delivering holiday cheer and gifts to rural Alaskan villages.
Volunteers for Operation Santa Claus make sundaes for children in Akiachak Dec. 3, 2016. The Alaska National Guard community relations program is an annual event in it’s 60th year of visiting rural villages throughout the state.
Santa Claus delivered gifts and holiday cheer to the remote village of Akiachak in Western Alaska last week. Only he didn’t use his sleigh and flying reindeer to get there. Instead, jolly old Saint Nick rode in on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 Hercules.
The reason for Santa’s visit? Operation Santa Claus, an Alaska National Guard community-outreach program that delivers toys, school supplies and other goodies — donated by Alaska businesses and individuals — to children in remote villages.
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This year marked the 60th anniversary of the program. Back in 1956, Spring floods wreaked havoc on hunting and fishing season in the village of St. Mary’s. The local Mission used its funds to have food brought in, but there was no money left for Christmas gifts. That’s when Mother Superior Antoinette Johnson wrote a letter to the Alaska Air National Guard asking for help.
Word soon spread via radio, television and newspapers. Donations started flooding in. The Alaska Air National Guard delivered everything, bringing along Santa Claus and elf volunteers on board a 144th AS C-47 Skytrain.
Operation Santa Claus has been a tradition ever since.
Unfortunately, this was the last mission for the 144th AS before it is divested from Alaska service, the Army reported.
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“It is a great honor to fly the final C-130 Operation Santa Claus flight for the 144th Airlift Squadron,” said Air National Guard Lt. Col. Richard Adams, 176th Operations Group deputy commander and aircraft commander for the Akiachak sortie. “It’s bittersweet to think this will be the last time (supporting the mission) in the mighty Herc.
“The Alaska National Guard has a long tradition alongside our community partners of supporting Operation Santa Claus,” Adams added. “We look forward to flying Santa with jets, props and rotors long into the future.”
By all accounts, this year’s Operation Santa Claus was a smashing success. Mr. and Mrs. Claus landed in the C-130 and delivered goodies to children in the Akiachak School gymnasium, which was almost completely full of eager children and their parents.
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“The feeling here is very happy, very positive,” Yupit School District superintendent Reyna Hartz said. “I think that the community feels loved and appreciated, and I think they recognize … it’s a long way to come, and the fact that you are all here and doing this, we appreciate it very much .”
The feeling was mutual.
“It’s important for Alaska National Guardsmen to be part of this enterprise, because it’s important for us to remember the people that we serve and the communities that depend on us and our relevance and our readiness,” Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Laurie Hummel, adjutant general for the Alaska National Guard, said.
Read more: https://www.army.mil
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