Paratroopers Air Drop Toys for Children

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ALZEY, Germany -- More than 130 paratroopers, comprised of 130 Soldiers, Airmen and partner nation jumpers, air dropped toys and performed an airborne jump during the fourth annual Operation Toy Drop at the Alzey Drop Zone, Dec. 13.

Operation Toy Drop is an annual event sponsored by U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern's Army Community Service and coordinated by the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's 5th Quartermaster Detachment.

Toys were provided by the jumping service members and donated to ACS for use in their yearly holiday toy shop, where families in need are able to select toys to be given to their children this holiday season.

"It's cool because all of these toys are going to a good cause," said Staff Sgt. Tylor Buckingham, the operations planning noncommissioned officer for the 5th QM and a native of Linn Creek, Mo. "We're donating (the toys) to ACS, and then they're going to pass them out to kids in the KMC area."

The 5th QM, U.S. Army Europe's only asset for providing aerial delivery support to various U.S. and allied military units throughout Europe, provided logistical support for the airdrop as well as Soldiers who jumped with the U.S. and partner nation paratroopers from U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft during the operation.

"We have right around 20 individuals jumping," said Buckingham. "But with the detail and everybody (involved), it's about coming together."

"This year we have Germans, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, plus the U.S. airborne community in USAREUR (participating)," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Scott Bockelman, the drop zone safety officer from the 5th QM and a native of Pawnee, Okla. "This is one of our opportunities to bond with them and learn their tactics and procedures as well as raise toys for needy children."

Planning for the operation began four months prior, with the 5th QM coordinating with ACS and various units throughout Europe. ACS began collecting toys in October through donations provided by the Kaiserslautern Military Community and will add them to the toys dropped to be used for their holiday toy shop.

"We started putting boxes out in October throughout the community in high visibility areas," said Charlene Licciardi, the financial readiness assistant for ACS and an Orlando native. "Units also asked for boxes so they could have people donate, so a lot of unit participation was key."

Family members were also at the event to see their loved ones perform the holiday jump, which also fulfilled their annual requirement to remain on airborne status. The jump also gave service members the opportunity to exchange airborne qualification badges with their fellow foreign airborne soldiers.

Being able to jump and earn foreign wings as well as providing gifts for the children at the event was a wonderful experience for Air Force Capt. Kyle Yates, a security forces officer with the 435th Security Forces Squadron and a Tangerine, Fla., native.

"This is my first jump after getting in from jump school so I'm pretty excited," Yates said. "It's a wonderful experience and I'm happy to be here."

Santa Clause, represented by Warrant Officer Eric Christianson, a jumpmaster with the 5th QM and a native of Ada, Okla., made a special appearance during the event, parachuting into the landing zone during the operation and riding to the viewing area in the back of a Humvee with the air dropped toys before handing them out to the gathering children.

"For me it was not different than my other jumpmaster duties, I just had a Santa suit on," said Christianson. "I think it's important to show not only the Army community but also the KMC and our partner nations that we care."

"It makes me proud to be in the 5th QM and to bring a little Christmas joy to the community," Christianson added.

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