FORT BRAGG, N.C. –
Muffled laughter, excited chatter and the soft thud of toys hitting cardboard filled the crisp early morning air at Sicily drop zone as paratroopers from across the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) prepared the 2022 Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop 2.0.
Steeped in the tradition of community reach back through the voluntary donation of toys, but enhanced by a commitment to training, validation and standardization, Operation Toy Drop (OTD) looked a little bit different this year, the mission remained the same.
The biggest change in OTD 2.0? No more lottery. In previous years, Soldiers arrived the week of Operation Toy Drop looking to trade toys for lottery numbers that were drawn to issue parachutes and fill seats on the planes. This year, all jump slots were assigned prior to Soldiers arriving.
“This time around, we didn't want to take that (lottery) approach,” explained Master Sgt. Matthew Meyers, G-3 Air noncommissioned officer in charge for USACAPOC(A).
Instead, allotments were given to units, allowing them to submit Soldiers by name for the manifested jumps.
“Once we confirmed with our riggers that we had enough chutes, everybody got 100 chutes,” said Meyers. That allocation of resources offered for a more controlled approach to how many USACAPOC(A) Soldiers would actually get the opportunity to participate and be drawn into the legacy of the operation. “Now they (USACAPOC(A) Soldiers) actually saw it (Toy Drop) firsthand,” concluded Meyers.
The components of OTD 2.0 that haven't changed are USACAPOC(A)’s commitment to training and validation, a focus on interoperability with allied and partner nation jumpmasters, and of course, the voluntary donation of toys for children in the local community.
“We’re training all these nine different countries on American operations, familiarizing them, and at the same time the Soldiers that we are training are getting a taste of what not only NATO countries, but Thailand, other organizations, how they do business,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5, Michael A. Rich, command chief warrant officer, USACAPOC(A). “Each of these jumpmaster teams here are bonding on a leadership and a Soldier level. They are in awe that the American jumpmasters are reaching out and incorporating them into the family. Now the next time that we go to Holland for Market Garden, we go to Germany for International Jump Week, these bonds… some of these jumpmasters here I’ve known for 12 years. It’s a very small community.”
Jumpmasters from the nine participating nations partnered with USACAPOC(A) jumpmasters to provide tough, targeted training to include Sustained Airborne Training (SAT), Practical Work inside the Aircraft (PWAC), Static Line Control, Exiting Procedures, Red/Amber Light Procedures, Jump Refusals, Towed Jumper Procedures and Emergency Procedures (SERJTE) on the days leading up the OTD 2.0 jump.