Staff Sgt. Timothy Koster
On Friday and Saturday, hundreds of U.S. Army and foreign airborne troops gathered at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. The goal? Complete some foreign airborne training while spreading Christmas cheer.
Operation Toy Drop was started 20 years ago by then-Staff Sgt. Randy Oler, and after his death in 2004, it was renamed the Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop.
Paratroopers venture to Fort Bragg with the hope they'll be able to earn their foreign jump wings.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, this year's partner countries are Colombia, Canada, Latvia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Germany and Poland.
Operation Toy Drop told IJR it gives soldiers a chance to work with other nations in a “peacetime environment,” which they may work with while deployed. By sharing the best practices, they can learn from each other.
Before they jump, paratroopers are invited to bring a new, unwrapped toy. It isn't required, but based on the sizable amount of donations, it seems like a lot of people take the Army up on its offer.
The event yields thousands of donations each year, and Operation Toy Drop told IJR that a dozen organizations — ranging from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to children's hospitals — will be receiving toys.
“There are highlights in your military career where you work with great people,” retired Air Force Master Sgt. William B. Wellbrock told the U.S. Army. “One of my highlights was meeting Randy and working with him on Operation Toy Drop.”
Operation Toy Drop is the largest combined joint training and airborne operation, and along with keeping our military ready, it gives Christmas to kids who need it the most.
Watch more of the event, below.