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NEWS | Dec. 19, 2011

Alaska National Guard brings Santa to remote villages

By Master Sgt. Shannon Oleson Alaska Air National Guard

WALES, Alaska - Santa, Mrs. Claus and 35 helpers brought Operation Santa Claus and holiday cheer via an Alaska National Guard C-130 to the small, remote Alaska village of Wales Dec. 9.

The Alaska Air National Guard C-130 landed on the village's airstrip and was warmly greeted by community members on snowmobiles. Even though the temperature was in the teens, it made for a chilly but not too cold of a day according to Wales' standards.

Operation Santa Claus volunteers and community members quickly off-loaded boxes from the aircraft and onto sleds tied to the snowmobiles for the mile ride to the Wales school.

"It's a great time of year and unique way for us to get out and support Alaska citizens," said Army Col. Mike Bridges, director of logistics for the Alaska Army National Guard. "I've probably been on at least 20 Operation Santa Claus trips and each one is a special experience."

While the boxes were unpacked into the school's gym, members of Alaska Brass, a brass and percussion ensemble from the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific, began to play festive holiday tunes as the gym filled with nearly everyone from the village.

Following the festive music, a prayer of thanks was given by Alaska Air National Guard Chaplain Brian Musselman before a warm meal that was made and donated by a food service company in Anchorage was served.

To the delight of everyone, ice cream sundaes were also provided by local vendors, while village youth performed a dance for the audience and their guests.

Soon came the moment everyone was waiting for: the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus.

"I enjoy visiting with the elders and veterans of the community, while they see their kids interact with Santa Claus," Bridges said. "It's a great time for everyone involved."

One by one, each child had a chance to visit Santa and receive a gift. They were also given a new backpack filled with a couple of pieces of fresh fruit, books, a toothbrush and other incidentals.

"This event was incredible," said Roxie Quick, the Wales School principal. "It was a great way to show the children a lesson in sharing and about the volunteer spirit."