ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The 97th Air Mobility Wing supported the annual Operation Toy Drop by sending a C-17 Globemaster III and a crew to Fort Bragg, NC, Nov. 28, 2018.
Operation Toy Drop is a yearly event where soldiers from around the world get the opportunity to maintain their “current” jump status. Paratroopers were also given the opportunity during their requalification training to donate a toy as part of the holiday season to give back the community.
Paratroopers and jumpmasters arrived early Nov. 29 and loaded into their respective aircraft.
The six-person C-17 crew was given one task - airdrop as many soldiers as possible.
"Airdrop is always nerve wracking," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nelson Jones, a loadmaster assigned to the 58th Airlift Squadron. "These are people’s lives in your hands. As soon as you get them off the plane, it feels amazing. It's a really cool experience."
During the course of three days, the 97th AMW team dropped approximately 290 paratroopers from nine different countries.
"Working with other countries is easily the best part," said one paratrooper assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC. "The Ivory Coast jumpmasters led us in one of their traditional pre-jump chants and it made me so ready to go. It's a plane full of every major military in the world, all working together. That's what it's all about."
Paratroopers who jump with jumpmasters from different countries earn that country’s jump wings, adding another unique element to the operation.
“I’m jumping with the Ivory Coast today,” said the paratrooper. “After seeing their traditions, I’m really excited to get their wings.”
The first day of jumping consisted of High Altitude, Low Opening parachute jumps. In this setup, paratroopers jump out of the rear of the C-17 and pull their own parachute while it is at a high altitude.
The rest of the days were static line jumps. For these jumps, paratrooper’s parachutes are rigged to the plane and are automatically pulled once the jumper exits the aircraft.
While the crew is at Altus AFB, they teach students how to be loadmasters; during this mission, they got the opportunity to get a taste of the operational side of the mission once again.
"We're instructors," said Jones. "Our job is to teach our students how to be loadmasters. We get that teaching experience and we're familiar with checklists and how things should be done. It's nice to get out here and do a mission again."
As the team leaves from a successful operation, they come back to their home at the 97th AMW. Not only did the crew enable the paratroopers to get a unique training opportunity, but they also increased their readiness as pilots, loadmasters and instructors.
"This was one of the most fun trips I've ever been on," said Jones. "It was awesome to be a part of it."
In accomplishing their mission, the aircrew cemented the wing’s longstanding reputation: when you see the Altus tail flash, you know it is equipped with a top-notch crew.