A Christmas gift for remote relatives

United States Air Force Airman Brandon Phillip delivers gifts to his relatives during Operation Christmas Drop 18

A ride on a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-130J Hercules has allowed a United States Air Force (USAF) member to deliver gifts to his relatives during Operation Christmas Drop 18.

On December 15, the RAAF Hercules delivered two bundle loads – each weighing up to 200 kilograms - to the remote island of Oneop in the Federated States of Micronesia, some 1300 kilometres south east of Guam.

Flying on board that Hercules was Airman Brandon Phillip, an Aerial Porter with the United States Air Force.

Airman Phillip’s father was born on the island, and his relatives continue to live there in a community of 800.

“My father left the island more than 30 years ago to get an education,” Airman Phillip said. “He was just a boy at the time.”

The trip to Oneop – a three-hour flight from Guam – provided an opportunity for Airman Phillip to see his father’s home for the first time.

“I was thinking, 'wow, this is where my father was born - this is the place that he had countless stories about',” Airman Phillip said.

“And now I’m given the opportunity to serve my country and to give back to my family that I have yet to meet.”

The two bundles delivered by the RAAF Hercules to Oneop contained the items regularly delivered during Operation Christmas Drop, including rice, clothes, fishing supplies, and toys.

“My father experienced Operation Christmas Drop as kid, and had his first pair of shoes from this operation,” Airman Phillip said.

With some assistance from the RAAF Loadmasters, Airman Phillip was able to attach some last-minute items to the bundle loads.

“My father wrote them a letter and bought them a Chuuk flag - they have never owned a flag of their State before, and we were the first to bring one there,” Airman Phillip said.

After the RAAF Pilots surveyed the Drop Zone – a large lagoon adjacent to Oneop – two passes were made to deliver each bundle.

They were quickly retrieved by boat and brought ashore.

The Oneop jetty held a special message for Airman Phillip, with the community writing ‘THANK U BRANDON’ in giant letters.

Fortunately, communicating with relatives in Oneop has recently become more convenient.

“I have never spoke with them until just a couple days ago,” Airman Phillip said.

“Communication with them was almost impossible, they had no Wi-Fi or cell phone services.”

“My uncle and his team just built a cell tower and a satellite dish there so I had the pleasure of meeting a relative through Facebook.”

Having joined the USAF in January 2018, Airman Phillip’s trip on the RAAF Hercules at Operation Christmas Drop 18 was also his first flight on a military aircraft.

His family’s experience led him to join the Air Force, ultimately giving him the opportunity to see where his father came from.

“My father is a retired Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army, and my older brother was in the Marines,” Airman Phillip said.

“They both had really great careers and were successful, (and) I wanted to show the world we can do it in any branch.”

Operation Christmas Drop 18: C-130J Hercules airdrop to Oneop Island