QAANAAQ, Greenland --
With Christmas almost here, members of Thule Air Base, Greenland, travel even farther north, 65 miles as Santa’s reindeer fly, to the village of Qaanaaq to deliver gifts to the children of Greenland on December 15, 2020, on annual trip called Operation Julemand.
Since 1959, Thule has participated in providing Christmas gifts to local children. The program was originally named Operation Santa Claus but has since been renamed Operation Julemand, which is Danish for “Christmas Man,” which is the Danish equivalent of Santa Clause.
This multinational effort is held by U.S., Danish and Canadian military and civilian employees to promote goodwill and build relationships.
“Team Thule is proud to be part of this unique tradition found here in Northern Greenland,” said Col. David Hanson, Thule Air Base commander. “Operation Julemand is one of the ways Thule Air Base and the United States, Canada and Denmark give back to the Greenlandic community.”
This year Team Thule provided items like sporting goods, books, school supplies, dolls and stuffed animals for approximately 250 children around Qaanaaq.
Although the event lasted for a day, coordinating an event of this magnitude is a year-round effort.
Hanson said the event planning began at the end of August, but the base raises funds throughout the year to support the program. Most of the funds come from personal donations collected from donation boxes located on base. There are also a few fundraising events throughout the year.
Some individuals involved in organizing the event explained how it is just as rewarding for them as it is for the kids.
“I wanted an opportunity to not only provide gifts to the children of Qaanaaq, but also to be able to learn about the traditions of the people of Greenland,” said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Marsh, Operation Julemand committee member. “It was a great opportunity to work alongside people from different countries, and experience different cultures. I am thankful for this opportunity, and lucky to have had the chance to participate.”
For Staff Sgt. Ivanna King, also a committee member, it was even a little familiar to her.
“I come from a really small country in Central America,” reflected King. “As I grew up, my family and I would go back to visit and we would bring toys, books and clothes for the smaller communities in Honduras. Operation Julemand reminded me of those efforts. I’m incredibly grateful to have been a part of such a committed team and be able to continue this tradition for the Greenlandic children.”
While Operation Julemand’s committee takes the lead on planning the event, Hanson reassures that it is the pride and responsibility of Team Thule to make it all happen.
“We are proud to play a critical role in maintaining community relationships, and [we] take pride in acknowledging this would not be possible without the help of our multinational partners,” said Hanson.