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Paratroopers adhere to basics of airborne operations

By Staff Sgt. Michael Crawford´é× | 326th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | December 06, 2017

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Paratroopers with the XVIII Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division conducted the first official airborne exercise of Operation Toy Drop here Dec. 1, 2017.

“We do everything that is involved with normal airborne operations; the main difference is (foreign) jumpmasters assigned to us conduct mock door drills and American jumpmasters repeat the American commands,” said Sgt. William Stochmal, a newly minted jumpmaster from 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. “At any given time, we could conduct a jump with a foreign nation, so it’s always good to know our partner nations and be familiar with their process when it comes to conducting airborne operations.”

Operation Toy Drop, established in 1998 by a U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Soldier, draws thousands of paratroopers to Fort Bragg each year to participate in airborne operations with foreign jumpmasters. With so many different actors involved, adherence to the fundamentals takes center stage for paratroopers.

“Every time we jump, we go through the same thing,” said Capt. Patrick Lee, commander of Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 319th Army Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. “We go through sustained airborne training, individual gridded exits, mock door training; we account for every potential hazard from exiting that procedure … we go through everything.”

Despite an established routine, paratroopers still benefit from a chance to hear the commands of foreign jumpmasters during rehearsals.

“Jumpers are used to hearing things a certain way in the aircraft; we’re trying to eliminate any confusion,” said 1st Lt. Byron Denman, chaplain candidate with the 412th Civil Affairs Battalion, USACAPOC(A) and team leader for the Italian jumpmasters. “It’s about rehearsing a few times, letting them hear what the Italian jumpmaster is going to say, translating that into English for them so they can understand the next step in the process.”

Denman adds, “It’s the psychological preparation. This is an important step; even before American jumps, we go through a rehearsal with a mock door. It’s to make sure everybody’s training stays fresh in their minds.”

After a safe landing, paratroopers agreed it was time well spent.

“They were very professional in the aircraft; they definitely made me feel comfortable being the No. 1 jumper heading out,” said Lee. “While the 82nd Airborne Division has its SOPs (Standard Operation Procedures), they’re not that much different across the partner nations. When the proverbial balloon goes up, we can have the confidence and fortitude that no matter who our jumpmaster is their commands, practices and safety procedures are not going to be that different.”

It’s a confidence Denman looks forward to fostering.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with the foreign jumpmasters,” Denman said. “The partner nations have been awesome to work with, and I’m looking to continue that relationship over the next week and a half.”
82nd Airborne Division operation toy drop paratroopers USACAPOC XVIII Airborne Corps

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