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Helping bring joy to children in NH; Operation Santa Claus a success

Pease Air National Guard Base -- On Tuesday, Dec. 15, approximately 40 Air Force and ANG members from Pease participated in "Operation Santa Claus."

This is the fourth year Airmen from Pease participated, but the program got its start in 1960 when the State Employees Association of New Hampshire organized a toy drive for approximately 150 underprivileged children. The operation now serves more than 3000 needy kids, and there are so many gifts to move it takes Army National Guard trucks to transport them to the communities of Littleton, Claremont, Laconia, Berlin, Rochester, Nashua, Manchester, Portsmouth, and Concord.
The Pease effort was coordinated by Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Lebel, 157 ARW Vehicle Maintenance Manager.

"Many hands make short work of loading these gifts. Our participation in this bucket brigade-type of line helped get the gifts off in easy fashion this year," Lebel said. Adding, "The privilege of having the 64th was great to have this year, as well."

Lt Col Christopher Leist, Commander of the 64th Air Refueling Squadron, was one of the new volunteers on hand.

"The opportunity to join our New Hampshire Air and Army Guard brethren to give back to the community just got my blood pumping," Leist said, "it's a thrill to get to help others. Our core values of Character, Community, and Commitment could all be seen as 64 ARS members helped with Operation Santa Claus. It provided us an opportunity to practice and live what we have been preaching since our arrival on the Seacoast - we are fully integrated into the NHANG and the communities where we live. The spirit of this season was on display inside the warehouse as ACUs, ABUs, flight suits, and civilian sleeves were rolled up, lines were formed, Christmas presents were moved, and the trucks rolled out on their way throughout New Hampshire."

In addition to the many civilian and military volunteers, Operation Santa Claus participants included Governor John Lynch and Maj Gen William Reddel, Adjutant General of the New Hampshire National Guard.

Next year, Operation Santa Claus will need many more volunteers because of the large deployment of Army National Guard soldiers so be sure to bring your gloves and Santa hat in 2010!
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