December 11, 2016 –
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – With a name like Operation Toy Drop, one may not realize the mission is more than donating toys to needy children. In reality, the exercise is a U. S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) (USACAPOC(A)) and U.S. Army Reserve annual collective airborne training exercise that strengthens teamwork and relationships between allied-partner jumpmasters and paratroopers.
Jumpmasters and paratroopers from Botswana, Canada, The Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Singapore and the United States came together to share airborne operation knowledge and experience Dec. 5 through Dec. 16 here, at Pope Army Airfield, Luzon drop zone and Mackall Army Airfield.
“The big keyword here is interoperability, and that’s exactly what it is,” said Canadian Warrant Officer Mike Dwyer, a jumpmaster with the Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Center and second-time OTD participant. “We get to compare our drills. Make our drills efficient. Make ourselves better paratroopers. That’s what we are here to do and it’s working wonders. This is a tremendous opportunity for us as jumpmasters.”
“Not every nation has the plethora of jumpmasters that we have,” said 1st Sgt. Benjamin Smith, a jumpmaster and company first sergeant with B Co., 5th Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group. “I work with the German team and they have one airborne brigade out of the entire German army. In the United States Army, we have an airborne division; we have airborne units in special operations; we have civil affairs brigades that are all airborne as well. We have more airborne capabilities than they do.”
Although the United States has more capabilities, Smith said he and his teams have learned from their partners as well. This translates into real-world operations, which is vital, he said.
Whether in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan or many other operations globally, in training or on real-world missions, Smith said the environments are all multinational joint operations. We are always with our partner nations. Because of exercises such as OTD, Smith said if he sees the Botswanans, Dutch, and Germans downrange, he’s more comfortable because he’s worked with them before and they know each other’s tactics, drills and procedures.
“(During OTD) we get to sit with our partner nation and our allies. We are on the same sheet of music. We are all jumpmasters. We have all volunteered for airborne school. We jumped and made the requirements to graduate from jumpmaster school. We are all proficient in our craft. Now we get to share our experiences with our allied jumpmasters and build that cohesion between units,” Smith said.
Training is not limited to the jumpmasters, though.
“It’s a great collective training event,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel R. Ammerman, USACAPOC(A) commanding general. “What you don’t see is the operations. It allows us to exercise our TOC (tactical operations center), exercise logistics, administrative, transportation pieces. We actually have about a dozen other units participating to support an effort like this. When you figure we have 4,200 jumpers that are jumping, that’s quite a significant logistic and operational requirement to coordinate that stuff. And so, it allows us to practice our individual and collective tasks. It’s a great way to generate readiness.”