Military News

Monday, December 07, 2015

Mobility Airmen facilitate Operation Toy Drop

by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shaiyla Hakeem
354th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

12/7/2015 - FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
Chutes instead of snow
Take a look at the sky again, they're jumping against the wind...
Giving gifts, descending to below!

Olive drab colored parachutes tinted the early morning sunrays on Sicily Drop Zone Friday at Fort Bragg, N.C. during the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop. For donation of toys, which are given to local children, Soldiers had the opportunity to earn partner nation jump wings and participate in a unique airborne experience.

"Operation Toy Drop is a multifaceted training exercise which also has an important community relations aspect," said Maj. Andre A. Battiste, Chief of Adjunct General Division for G1 command. "It is also exposure to foreign nations on how we do our airborne operations."

United States Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations (Airborne), a U.S. Army Reserve Functional Command, hosted this international training event. Operation Toy Drop is the world's largest combined airborne operation. Partner nation participants this year included Canada, Colombia, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Latvia and the Netherlands. This event gives the nations' jumpmasters a chance to exchange a part of their culture with the U.S. Army.

Aircraft support was provided by Pope Air Force Base's 43rd Airlift Group.

Preparation for the big toy day included rehearsal training for static line jumps, refresher training on the main canopy parachute (MC-6), T-11 reserve parachute, aircraft familiarizations for the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, C-130, C-160 and C-27. Reserve Soldiers from the 824th Quartermaster Company supplied and packed more than 200 MC-6 and T-11 parachutes for the event.

Operation Toy Drop was founded in 1997 by the late Sgt. 1st Class Randall R. Oler, who on April 20th, 2004, suffered a heart attack on a C-130 aircraft while performing jumpmaster duties.

His international vision and legacy lives on.

"There are little offshoots of Operation Toy drop all around the airborne community & it spawned from Randy Oler's idea," Battiste said.

This event is huge in the toy collection aspect, but it also serves as a far-reaching training event. Capt. Juan DeValdenebro, Colombian Special Operations Command jumpmaster, said working with the U.S. has been a valuable training experience and he would like to come back to participate again. This was the first year his country has been a part of Operation Toy Drop.

"We are very glad of having this opportunity," DeValdenebro said, "It's great for us so we can share training techniques, procedures, know new aircrafts and other countries procedures so we can improve ours."

Aside from collecting more than 1,000 toys for under privileged children and providing an international personal development opportunity, Operation Toy drop offered esprit de corps among soldiers with boost in moral.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Suyapa Lopez, with Alpha Company 407th Brigade Supply Battalion, cheered all the way through her descent to the ground. She earned a pair of Netherland wings from her jump in Operation Toy Drop.

"This was my smoothest, most calm jump ever," said Suyapa, "It was awesome!"

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