Christmas: Marines on snowmobiles help Santa in Alaska’s remote Arctic region

Marines flew to Kotzebue, 26 miles above the Arctic Circle, to help Santa deliver toys

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US marines on snowmobiles have helped Santa while delivering toys to boys and girls in Alaska’s Arctic.

Marines flew to Kotzebue, which is 549 miles north-west of Anchorage and 26 miles above the Arctic Circle, on a KC-130 operated by a squadron based in Okinawa, Japan.

From there, they took commercial flights and snowmobiles to get toys to 2,500 children in 11 villages, the Juneau Empire reported.

Corporal Brendan Mullin, who took pictures of the event, could hear children gasp when a marine Santa entered a classroom.

“When you can see the smile through the mask, you know it’s a big, genuine smile,” Cpl Mullin said.

Their joyful job was part of the Toys for Tots programme run by the Marine Corps and a non-profit foundation. Started in 1947, the programme now delivers 18 million toys to seven million less fortunate children each year.

“It’s really just to benefit kids. The sparkle in the kids’ eyes, that makes it worth it,” said Captain Keith Lowell, a marine stationed in Anchorage who oversaw the mission to Alaska’s Northwest Arctic Borough.

The half-dozen marines who participated were primarily from Delta Company of the 4th Law Enforcement Battalion, a reserve unit.

“Everyone got an opportunity to play Santa,” said Capt Lowell.

The Okinawa-based crew has partnered with Delta Company on the programme for the past few years, Capt Lowell said. Traveling to Alaska helps them get the flight hours they need, he said.

He praised the hospitality that greeted the visiting marines.

“Weather’s always an obstacle out there. We trained for it, we had the right gear. I can’t thank the locals enough. They would help us repair our snow-machines or lend us their snow-machines to make these deliveries,” Capt Lowell said.