The Operation Toy Drop tradition was established in 1998 by then-Staff Sgt. Randy Oler, a U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command Soldier. Operation Toy Drop began with 1,200 Soldiers and 550 donated toys.
Sadly, after watching his program grow for six years, Oler, passed away. His goal was to create a program that could strengthen bonds between partner nations, as well as within communities and units. Since then, the operation continues to do just that, and then some.
Each year only so many spots are available. Due to this, a lottery was put in place to ensure fairness. Soldiers begin arriving the night before to stand in line for their chance to jump. This operation is two-fold. Soldiers jumping earn foreign jump wings, while local children in need receive toys for Christmas.
Now, this jump has grown to include countries all around the world. For example, last year, the eight countries that participated were Colombia, Canada, Latvia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Germany and Poland.
This year marked the 21st annual Operation Toy Drop at Fort Bragg. Each year the partnered nations list grows. This year jumped off with 260 jumpmasters from 14 partner nations. Of the foreign jumpwings none were more coveted than that of the Cote d’Ivore (pictured on the left).
The 21st annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop ended with 3,000 paratroopers earning their foreign jump wings, and 4,500 toys finding new homes.