172nd Airlift Wing hosts 16th annual Flight to the North Pole

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Shardae McAfee
  • 172nd Airlift Wing

Members of the 172nd Airlift Wing, Jackson, Mississippi, partnered with Salvation Army – Jackson Metro Area and Y101 radio station to host the 16th annual Flight to the North Pole, an annual community outreach event benefiting the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, December 13, 2022.

The event brings together local leaders, sponsors, supporters and over 100 volunteers in the spirit of delivering a magical Christmas to underprivileged families.

“The kids are just so surprised and probably shocked that they were able to get such wonderful quality gifts, and that's because we have such a generous community,” said Major Bill Shafer, Salvation Army Corps officer and pastor for the Jackson-Metro area.

The 172nd Airlift Wing leadership understands the importance of community involvement and the impact of the Flight to the North Pole.
“It’s something that we do as a Wing to help people in our community,” said Col. Britt Watson, 172nd Airlift Wing Commander.

Watson said the community is usually aware of the Mississippi Air National Guard’s involvement in events such as natural disasters, but some may not be aware of Air National Guard members’ commitment to their communities.

“We're not just a military organization; we are part of the community,” said Watson. “That means we give back to our community, and Flight to the North Pole is an opportunity for us to do that.”

The Angel Tree program, organized under Salvation Army’s Social Services Department, is designed to assist families who are at a disadvantage during the holiday season.

“We're built on service and helping those in need by doing the most good,” said Rolonda Alexander, Social Services Director for the Salvation Army – Jackson Metro Area. The Salvation Army Angel Tree Program gives hope to families and provides them with an opportunity to give their children a magical Christmas.

The Flight to the North Pole concluded with joyful hearts and happy faces for everyone involved.

“The magic of touching lives goes beyond giving gifts,” said Shafer. “It also enriches the lives of volunteers who go home with an experience that they share with their families and friends.” These selfless acts of service bring forth a sense of fulfilment in serving the community.

“There's a little extra pride that you have as the Wing Commander, because it's not just us serving,” said Watson. “It's your entire Wing that you're leading; you’re getting to see the best of your organization.”

The community’s holiday cheer at Flight to the North Pole welcomed expressions of gratitude and joy.

“Everybody feels something special by being connected to it,” said Shafer. “We give all glory to God, and we're so blessed for this partnership, and hope that it continues for many, many years.”