The mission: Air-drop critical supplies of food and water to Iraqi citizens displaced from their homes by Islamic State militants.
Aircrews from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron fulfilled that mission — and then some, according to a report from Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel, Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs.
Master Sgt. Stephen Brown, for one, taped a package of Skittles to a bundle of Halal Meals Ready to Eat, which was delivered in an August airdrop to displaced Iraqis in the vicinity of Sinjar Mountain.
“Although my favorite candy that doesn’t melt in this desert heat is Starburst, I took what I had in my bag and just taped it to the side of the box,” he said. “After that everyone started making the drops a little personal with more candy, and I even think I saw a teddy bear.”
Overall, two C-17 Globemaster IIIs and two C-130 Hercules dropped 10,545 gallons of water and 7,056 Halal Meals Ready to Eat in 109 bundles, and almost every one dropped with a little extra.
Reminiscent of retired Col. Gail Halvorsen, the original Candy Bomber of World War II?
“We’ve been really impressed with the turn out and dedication of our wingmen,” said Master Sgt. Emily Edmunds, the 816th EAS loadmaster superintendent. “We are definitely not at the level of the Candy Bomber, but I’d give us an ‘almost’ for our modern version of it.”
For the drops, airmen contributed items they had received in care packages or bought themselves or had been given specifically for the Iraqis. By the end of August, crews had graduated from dropping single packs of candy to garbage bags full of donated sweets.
“I can just imagine being in the shoes of these parents down there. Not being able to provide much during a time of war would be heartbreaking,” Brown said. “This could be something that will make a dire situation a little brighter even if it’s just for a few moments.”