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AMC Airmen participate in 16th Annual Operation Toy Drop

  • Published
  • By Marvin Krause
  • 43rd Airflift Group public affairs
Air Mobility Command and German Air Force transport aircraft and Airmen participated in the 16th annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop here Dec. 6 thru Dec. 7.

Seven C-130H Hercules aircraft and Airmen from the 43d Airlift Group and 440th Airlift Wing, Pope Army Airfield, 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown, Ohio, 145th Airlift Wing, Charlotte, N.C., and two German Air Force Transall C-160 aircraft, ensured the successful outload and airdrop of 1,570 U.S. Army paratroopers and foreign jumpmasters participating in this year's operation hosted by the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.

Assisting USACAPOC(A) personnel were over 100 military, civilian, allied jumpmasters and volunteers from other installation commands such as the 18th Airborne Corps, 43rd Airlift Group and 440th Airlift Wing. This underscores the service's belief that Soldiers and Airmen - the people who collectively come together as a team for great causes like training and charity - are an organization's best asset.

The Air Force mission commander for this year's Operation Toy Drop is Capt. Marnie Dabroski, a C-130H navigator from the 440th Airlift Wing. She is participating in her third Operation Toy Drop.

"The Army lets me know how many people they want dropped and when they want them dropped, and I make all of the Air Force assets move in a way that allows for that to happen," said Dabroski.

"Not only does this event make you feel great because you are participating in an event that helps underprivileged children, but at the same time, as far as I'm concerned with my duties this year, this is the top of the spear as far as my career has been concerned with mission planning," she said.

Similar in support for a Joint Operational Access Exercise and Joint Airborne/Air Transportability Training operations here, the airdrop planning and execution for this year's Operation Toy Drop was a little more complicated. Joint Airborne/Air Transportability Training airlift missions provide continuation and proficiency training to airlift aircrews, support personnel, and service customers. The Tanker/Airlift Control Center or Air Mobility Operations Control Center coordinates with users to provide airland, airdrop, aircraft load and service school support.

"This event is very similar to a JOAX itself depending on the size of the exercise. Normally, we operate with roughly two to three aircraft at a time in one formation so, that makes deconfliction of aircraft fairly easy. Here, we're looking at multiple aircraft formations as well as single ships. Our initial planned time on target is going to have a mass over the drop zone of five C-130s in a formation, then two single C-160s, 15-minutes in trail of each other as well as us. After that, we're looking at two, two-ships and a three-ship plus the two C-160s, operating individually and trying to deconflict take-off and land times as well as range times and drop zone times, it gets a little hectic," she said.

The C-130s will perform four airdrops of paratroopers and the C-160s will do three airdrops during the operation.

Each year since, the chance to perform a "Hollywood" jump supervised by foreign jumpmasters has drawn thousands of Soldiers to participate in Operation Toy Drop. Jumpmasters from eight allied nations supervised airborne operations during the main jump day on Saturday, Dec. 7, and over the following week with Army special-operations units.

Over its 16-year span, Operation Toy Drop has collected and distributed thousands of toys for children in the Sandhills, N.C. area.

Operation Toy Drop will collect and distribute over 5,000 toys donated by Fort Bragg soldiers through Christmas to needy children who live on or near Fort Bragg, N.C. In exchange for a donated toy, paratroopers were provided a jump lottery number and an opportunity to earn their foreign jump wings if their number was selected.

Foreign jumpmasters from Germany, Sweden, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Brazil, Chile, Poland and Latvia participated in this year's event.

"This is a good Joint event and a good way to meet other people in the Air Force and a good way to work with the Army and on top of it, you just get good satisfaction about the overall intent of the event getting the toys for needy kids, it's great," said Capt. Mark Pitliangas, a C-130H pilot from the 440th Airlift Wing. "It's special to be a part of something that people volunteer to be a part of. To get to see all the people out at the drop zone watching the jumpers and the reactions the jumpers get jumping with the foreign jumpmasters, it's a really cool experience," he said. "This event is similar to a normal Joint Airborne Training mission but it's a lot more complex, a lot more high-viz and probably a lot more importance as far as the impact it goes above just our normal training with the impact of reaching out to the children," he said.

"We've always come to do Joint Airborne Training here, so it's good training for all of us to come out and do the personnel drops. It's good experience with the other units, especially in the larger formations," said Lt. Col. Perry Sorg, a C-130H navigator from the 910th Airlift Wing. "This is a fantastic thing they do for the kids. You don't always get an opportunity to have a chance where the kids get to enjoy what goes on in the military, especially when we can put together some training like this for their benefit as well," he said.

Within the Airborne community, foreign jump wings is a status symbol to have had an experience with an allied or coalition airborne force, and even more so is the recognition of being able to wear on a paratrooper's dress uniform that country's airborne wings or parachutist badge.

Masterminded in 1998 by then-Staff Sgt. Randy Oler, a Civil Affairs Soldier, Operation Toy Drop started as a relatively minor success. After months of planning, the first Operation Toy Drop was small and just 550 toys were raised -- but it was a start.

In 2012, Toy Drop collected and distributed nearly 10,000 toys. Since 1998, the operation has collected and donated more than 76,000 toys. Each toy collected is donated to a child in need - almost 19,000 children received toys in 2012 through Operation Toy Drop.

On April 20, 2004, Sgt. 1st Class Randall R. Oler suffered a fatal heart attack while performing jumpmaster duties. The void left by his death was a difficult one to fill; Oler had run the operation from memory for six years. With the support of every unit on Fort Bragg, Operation Toy Drop has continued on and, in 2012, Operation Toy Drop raised more than 10,000 toys -- from bikes to dolls to video game systems -- for families and children in need throughout the region.