Arctic Airmen overcome roadblocks

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Trottier
  • 21st Space Wing command chief
Thule Air Base is home to approximately 140 Airmen from both the 21st and 50th Space Wings. The base is the Department of Defense's most northern installation. Thule is located more than 700 miles inside the Arctic Circle, and often referred to as "The Top of the World." Despite being that far north, there are still about 2,000 Greenlanders who live even closer to the North Pole than the Airmen at Thule. In an impressive show of compassion for their arctic companions, the Thule Airmen have put their full weight behind a humanitarian effort called Operation Julemand.

In Danish, "Julemand" is the word for Santa Claus, and the history of Operation Julemand extends back to 1959 when Capt. John McTamney and Airman 1st Class Delbert Cox collected $778.33 to buy Christmas gifts for 209 Greenlandic children living in the Arctic Circle. More than 50 years later McTamney's vision is still going strong. While many things changed during the past half century, the selflessness and generosity of the men and women serving at the Top of the World remains a constant.

This year's Operation Julemand has already begun. Early this fall Chaplain (Capt.) Wade Matuska set sail with the Danish Navy to deliver scores of winter jackets to the village of Qeqertat. On that same trip, the chaplain participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony, opening a new playground that had been donated by last year's Operation Julemand Committee. This year's executive council is planning a day-long festival to raise money for a December outreach to four villages.

According to Staff Sgt. Lindsey Seay, who accompanied Matuska to Qeqertat, "In another 50 years, the children may not remember what gift they received this year for Christmas, but they will remember the generosity from their American and Danish neighbors to the south."

The generous contributions from Team Thule brings light to a dark corner of the world and embody the "Airman spirit." In a few days the Airmen at Thule will see the sun rise for the last time in four months, but the Arctic Circle will light up with smiles when the children receive their gifts from Operation Julemand. It is true Airman spirit to take care of and lend a helping hand to those that can do nothing for you.

So, the question is, what have you done lately to help others and showcase the Airman spirit? Are you faced with roadblocks in an attempt to help your community? Thule's Airmen certainly faced roadblocks in Operation Julemand. In fact, one major obstacle is that the villages involved in their project aren't connected by roads at all. Thule's ambassadors board a foreign vessel for a two day voyage to support the humanitarian effort. And that's in good weather. The next trip to the villages scheduled for December will not be by way of boat, because the Arctic Ocean has frozen over for the season. Dog sleds and helicopters will get the holiday gifts to the four villages at Christmas. They will brave temperatures that plummet to lower than negative 40, with winds that frequently gust more than 100 mph, in order to help their neighbors.

Thule has overcome its roadblocks for the past half century to help their community. I close with a simple question: What is preventing you from helping those in your community?