A combined military mission delivered holiday cheer to U.S. troops at several camps in eastern Syria on Monday. It was called Operation Holiday Express. Wearing Santa hats and riding in Chinnoks (instead of sleighs), high-ranking officers and NCOs brought gifts and goodie bags, and surprise recorded video messages from home for men and women deployed to Deir el-Zour and Hassakeh provinces. After a pause earlier this year, the U.S. troops resumed operations last month with Kurdish-led partner forces against ISIS. One viewer of the messages, whose identity will remain anonymous, received a video from his young children. Dozens of troops applauded and started to harmlessly tease the man for “eye ball sweat.”
“A little touch of home goes a long way towards morale,” said Col. Myles Caggins, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force—Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. troops have very little “creature comforts.” This was meant to deliver niceties that they usually go without. As they opened up stockings stuffed with hygiene gear, snacks and letters, troops enjoyed a live brass quintet that played holidays tunes while they also drank hot chocolate and cookies.