The Airborne’s longtime tradition, called Operation Toy Drop, distributes thousands of toys to children in the area around Fort Bragg, N.C., with a combination of Army and Army Reserve paratroopers, dozens of volunteers and allied military personnel, and more than a dozen Air Force aircraft.
Because it includes jumpmasters from around the globe — the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Italy, Poland, Chile, Sweden, Latvia and Brazil this time — its billed the world’s largest combined airborne operation.
So the paratroopers jump out of the planes holding toys, which they hand to eager local children, right?
No, said Lt. Col. Annmarie Daneker, spokeswoman for U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command, which leads the event.
So the toys are airdropped in crates?
That’s a negative, Ghostrider.
“There are no toys coming out of any aircraft,” Daneker said, with good humor.
So, if you can get over your disappointment that no toys in Operation Toy Drop are actually dropped, perhaps you can appreciate thousands of toys being distributed to needy children. That, and a lot of big kids in bloused boots get a shot at their own holiday treat, foreign jump wings.
The gist of the operation is that Dec. 6, kicks off a “Lottery Day.” Some 3,000 soldiers will arrive with toy donations, hoping for a chance to earn foreign jump wings.
The lottery connects soldiers with a foreign jump master under whose supervision they will jump Dec. 7.
So there will be toys and there will be dropping, but the two will not happen together exactly.
The event is named for Sgt. 1st Class Randy Oler, a beloved NCO who came up with the first one. Oler suffered a fatal heart attack in 2004 while performing jump master duties aboard a C-130 aircraft.
His legacy is that tens of thousands of toys have been distributed over the years, and soldiers get another chance to give back.
This year, an estimated 5,000 toys will be collected through Christmas and distributed to underprivledged children at local orphanages, childrens hospitals and the like.
“There are a lot of kids who don’t get any toys, or only get one toy, and this gives them a chance to get bicycles, Playstations or other toys,” Daneker said.
“Last year, there were at least 100 bicycles. Some soldiers really go above and beyond.”