News: ‘Win-win situation’ for paratroopers, children
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – “Gifts, gifts, gifts!”
This was the alarm Army Pvt. Marcos J. Silva used as a child to wake his parents on Christmas Day. Now a cavalry scout paratrooper with the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, N.C., Silva understands how something as simple as a toy can bring joy to a child.
Silva, a San Juan, Puerto Rico, native, didn’t always get a toy during the holidays.
“Sometimes it would be a shirt or just food,” he said.
Kids deserve a toy during the holidays.
That’s why, according to their website, the Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop has collected and distributed more than 75,000 toys to local children’s homes and social service agencies in need since its creation in 1998.
The weeklong project, coordinated by the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), Fort Bragg, is scheduled to culminate in the biggest multinational airborne operation in the world on Dec. 8 on Fort Bragg's Sicily drop zone.
“For me it’s all about helping kids,” said Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Vineyard, a military police officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Military Police Brigade, on Fort Bragg.
“One of the coolest things was seeing some of the toys people would bring out,” he explained. “Guys were bringing bikes or two bikes, doll houses, and even stereos. It’s neat to see everyone from privates to generals come out and donate a toy.”
Although the event gives individuals from all across the country a chance to contribute, it also provides paratroopers a chance to earn foreign jump wings.
“It’s a win-win situation across the board,” said Vineyard, a senior jumpmaster – an expert parachutist, who earned his German jump wings during the event in 2008.
“It’s a good feeling knowing that you are able to jump with other allied forces and still get the mission done,” said Vineyard, a Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, native.
Conducting airborne operations with other countries shows that although some of the equipment may be different, the airborne esprit de corps and tenacity doesn’t change, he said.
Army Sgt. Peter J. Mayoliz, a paratrooper and transportation management coordinator with the 329th Movement Control Team (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, said he is looking forward to participating in the event for the first time this year.
“I would like to earn Polish jump wings,” he said.
So far, Canada, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands have confirmed attendance for this year’s event.
Nevertheless, the event is a way to give back to the community and to help kids and families that can’t afford toys during the holiday season, said Mayoliz, a Rochester, N.Y., native.
Paratroopers donating toys – and on current Hazardous Duty Orders, will have a chance to earn foreign jump wings by participating in a raffle slated to begin at 8 a.m., Dec. 7, at Pope Army Airfield on Fort Bragg.
Once paratroopers donate their toy, they'll receive a raffle ticket, which could earn them one of 300 slots on an aircraft. If their raffle number is drawn, they immediately get manifested and begin sustained airborne training with their assigned foreign jumpmaster and prepare to jump the following day.
Last year Operation Toy Drop collected and distributed more than 20,000 toys across the country.
For more information about the Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop, visit http://optoydrop.blogspot.com.