Story by SPC Tynisha Daniel on 12/11/2016FORT BRAGG, N.C. Since organized in 1998 by Sgt. 1st Class Randy Oler, a United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Soldier, Operation Toy Drop has become an annual collective training exercise to prepare Soldiers to support military in theaters of operation around the world every December at Fort Bragg. Every year since, U.S. and foreign jumpmasters collectively have conducted this charitable training and airborne operation.
"Operation Toy Drop requires that Soldiers use their basic soldiers skills and functional abilities to remain combat ready," said Maj. General Daniel Ammerman, commanding general, USACAPOC(A).
OTD gives Soldiers the opportunity to train together and work side-by-side with the United States' foreign partners while expanding their experiences and knowledge in airborne operations.
The idea behind OTD is to combine the efforts of active and reserve support units of the Army and Air Force, foreign jumpmasters and civilian service organizations while boosting Soldier readiness, and helping families in need during the holidays. This is the largest annual combined joint training and airborne operation in the military, we have many components of the military out here providing support, Ammerman said.
Oler created Operation Toy Drop to challenge Soldiers to work jointly with foreign jumpmasters while improving Soldier readiness, and providing thanks' to communities around Fort Bragg that show support for military men and women.
"I have been a part of Operation Toy Drop since its first inception with Randy we were friends for many years," said William B. Wellbrock a retired Master Sgt. with the Air Force.
After the passing of Oler, with the help of his family, friends and the military, OTD is in its 19th iteration.
"There are highlights in your military career where you work with great people," said Wellbrock. "One of my highlights was meeting Randy and working with him with Operation Toy Drop,"
The legacy of Oler lives on through OTD. With many long hours spent planning and executing the event each year; over 100,000 toys have been donated since 1998. Contrary to popular belief, jumpmasters and paratroopers don't actually drop the toys when jumping from aircrafts. Instead, paratroopers turn in their donated toys and receive a lottery ticket numbers prior to the event. If their number is chosen they are then given the opportunity to jump. Some Soldiers stand in line with their toys nearly 12 hours before the event in hopes of receiving a lucky lottery number to ensure their opportunity to jump and gain foreign jump wings.
The Soldiers, civilians, and family members assigned to USACAPOC(A) take great pride in planning and executing this event every year.
"This is my fifth year participating in [OTD], I enjoy knowing I am helping those who are less fortunate," said Sgt. Jesse Michel, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Michel was one of the first to stand in line for the lottery ticket with his donation.
The creation of OTD embodies the values the U.S. military stands for by combining training with selfless service. "Operation Toy Drop means a lot to me. As a child my family utilized similar organizations like this, and I feel that it is my responsibility to give back to the community the way they have me," said Sgt. Michel. With the opportunity to be charitable and gain foreign wings, servicemen and women look forward to the event annually.
As the largest annual combined joint airborne operation, this philanthropic organization has put smiles on the faces of families and children, provided great training in aircraft and parachute familiarization for jumpmasters, and given paratroopers the opportunity to gain wings and continue training with partner nations, ensuring Soldiers remain ready for years.