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NEWS | Dec. 6, 2017

Joint training earns Soldiers foreign wings

By Spc. Alicia Pennisi 222nd Broadcast Operations Detachment  

The U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) is hosting the 20th annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop, which is the largest international airborne operation conducted worldwide.

This year, eight countries are participating, including Colombia, Canada, Latvia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Germany and Poland. Toy Drop is scheduled to run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 8, 2017.

Building solid relationships with our NATO allies is a pivotal part of this exercise. Strengthening foreign bonds while potentially being able to earn the coveted foreign jump wings makes the exercise a win-win for the U.S. and participating nations.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Barnes, a Special Warfare Training Group NCO, says this operation serves as a great training platform, while giving back to the community, that also allows Soldiers to try and earn their foreign wings.

“It builds relationships with our NATO allies and also for the soldiers it’s important because they’re allowed to wear them on their Army service uniforms.”

The Netherlands was just one of eight partner nations who participated in the exercise. Despite the language barrier, training and safety structure remained consistent with the United States Army airborne operations.

“The team that we have right now actually all work at the Dutch airborne school, essentially, so they’re all cadre at an airborne school in the Netherlands. They’re very well prepared, they’ve got a lot of experience, they’re are all free-fall qualified as well; they have a massive amount of parachute jumps.”

“They’re very well-prepared, they’re very well-versed with how we conduct our airborne operations and they’re very proficient with what they do as well.”

Established in 1998 by then Staff Sgt. Randy Oler, a USACAPOC(A) Soldier, Operation Toy Drop started as a training event, airborne operation and community relations event. The first Toy Drop had more than 1,200 Soldiers participate with 550 toys donated.

Today, the event allows Soldiers to train on their military occupational specialty, maintain their airborne readiness while increasing their overall readiness, and potentially earn foreign jump wings.