It joins Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States in the humanitarian mission, which has been held annually for 71 years.
Led by the U.S. Pacific Air Forces, participants will deliver donated goods to 20,000 people living on 56 islands throughout Micronesia and Palau. Operation Christmas Drop is the longest-running Defense Department humanitarian assistance mission.
The South Korean Air Force sent a C-130 transport plane and some 30 service members, including pilots and mechanics, this year. The mission started Sunday at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and will run through Friday.
According to the South Korean Air Force on Monday, its transport aircraft and personnel belonging to the 15th Special Missions Wing headed to Guam on Nov. 29 to undertake training ahead of the six-day operation.
They will make three flights to about 10 Micronesian islands and will return to Korea on Dec. 12.
On Saturday, military personnel and local residents finished packing the supply boxes and loaded them onto the transport plane Sunday.
In the months leading up to the drop dates, the U.S. Air Force collects and sorts donated supplies.
Aircrews connect to Pacific island villages by ham radio as they fly overhead and use low-cost, low-altitude airdrops, using repurposed personnel parachutes, to deliver the supplies packed in parcels to the islanders.
The drop point target is marked with a flag by the islanders.
Korea first joined the operation last year.
The South Korean Air Force said the operation will help improve its combined airlift and airdrop capabilities in coordination with other air forces and its long-range operational skills.
The mission helps train aircrews to resupply areas in the Indo-Pacific region.
“We are excited to team with our allies and partners throughout the region as we launch the 71st year of Operation Christmas Drop,” said Col. Andrew Roddan, commander of the 374th Airlift Wing, in a statement last Tuesday.
He said the operation “represents a significant opportunity to integrate airlift teams as we work closely with international partners” and “helps to hone critical skills necessary for a successful response to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]