Operation Turkey Drop

Delivering the package to military families in need

By Gary Lott on November 26, 2013

Imagine a large vehicle carrying hundreds of birds, ready in a second's notice to drop off packages to units spread out on Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Camp Murray.

It's a safe bet you probably weren't imagining a furniture truck full of Thanksgiving turkeys.

For the past four years, servicemembers have been able to check Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas hams off of their holiday spending lists thanks to the military holiday meals programs Operation Turkey Drop and Operation Ham Grenade.

"Approximately four years ago, I created Operation Turkey Drop (Thanksgiving) and Ham Grenade (Christmas) for the Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA)," said Carlene Joseph, founder of the Turkey Drop program and vice president of military relations for Harborstone Credit Union. "Collectively, both programs deliver nearly 800 turkeys and hams all over Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Camp Murray for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays."

Another successful mission accomplished as the volunteers/sponsors associated with this year’s “Operation Turkey Drop” stop by the 446th Airlift Wing to deliver Thanksgiving turkeys for military families. Photo credit: Gary Lott

Approximately 15 to 20 active-duty and National Guard families from each unit, brigade or wing receive the donated turkeys and hams. Most are lower enlisted.

Multiple community organizations join together to help deliver and fund the holiday meals for each unit.

"In 33 years I have never seen a community that is this involved, and it truly goes above and beyond what anybody ever expects," 446th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Bruce Bowers said. "There's a little tendency to think the most important thing we have is money, and I would tell you that something like this has all the trappings of family and memories.  This is a major opportunity to build memories for the members and families of the 446th."

The Washington National Guard Family Programs staff gets ready to hand out more than 130 Thanksgiving turkeys.  Along with turkeys, the National Guard also provided holiday sides as well. Photo credit: Gary Lott

The programs are also a perfect way to relieve a little stress associated with holiday spending.

"With the increase in financial hardship this year due to furloughs and the government shutdown, it's great to see the community so excited to help servicemembers and veterans with a holiday meal," said the new Washington National Guard State Family Programs Director, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Don Brewer. "I hope this event will relieve some of the financial stress many of our Soldiers are experiencing."

The JBLM chapter of the Air Force Association (AFA) and The Ranger and Northwest Airlifter newspapers, along with dozens of other sponsors, are also involved in the program.

Washington National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Tyvan thanks members of the American Lake Credit Union and Military OneSource while handing out turkeys to the 66th Theater Aviation Command during last week’s “Operation Turkey Drop” event. Photo credit: Gary Lott

"I hope this event strengthens the resolve of our local communities to continue to lend a helping hand to those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom," added Brewer.

The two programs have become community-wide projects that support our hometown heroes.

"Thanksgiving is all about being thankful, and this is a great opportunity to thank our great soldiers and airmen," said adjutant major general of the Washington National Guard, Bret Daugherty.  "We are happy to be able to provide that, and I really appreciate the sponsors, volunteers and employees that have worked so hard to put this together."

Operation Ham Grenade deliveries will take place on JBLM and Camp Murray Monday, Dec. 16.