Jumping for joy: 58 AS supports Operation Toy Drop

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kari Degraffenreed
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Eagerness, excitement, and adrenaline are written all over the faces of the U.S. Army and Army Reserve soldiers waiting to jump out of a C-17 Globemaster III hailing from Altus Air Air Force Base, Oklahoma. When their parachutes open and they hit the ground at the Sicily Drop Zone near Fayetteville, North Carolina, all their anticipation will have paid off the moment a child opens the gift that soldier donated for the annual Operation Toy Drop 2.0.

Soldiers from across the world came together to donate toys for Operation Toy Drop at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dec. 7-9, 2022. Service members from Thailand, Poland and Brazil boarded the C-17, piloted by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. J.D. Shaw, Maj. Johnathan Crawley and Maj. Emily Barkemeyer, 58th Airlift Squadron instructor pilots.

“Our mission spanned over two days,” said U.S. Air Force Reserve Master Sgt. Jayne Alexander, 730th Air Mobility Training Squadron loadmaster instructor. “Each lift consisted of up to 100 people and about 90 jumpers each time.”

Jumpers were chosen through a lottery system in years past, but this year they were chosen by their command. Those participating in the drop were encouraged to donate toys for children prior to their jump.

However, the donation of toys was not the only reason for the drop. The operation is also meant to cultivate an environment of excellence among aircrews and airborne soldiers, as well as enhance lethality, readiness and joint interoperability.

“The purpose of the drop is ultimately for airborne operations training to keep everyone current, qualified and at the top peak of our performance,” said U.S. Army Reserve Master Sgt. Zeb Doughtery, maintenance supervisor with the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne).

“Another purpose for the drop is working with our partner nations,” said Doughtery. “We bring them here, and not only does it build a strong relationship with them, we also incorporate it into the training.”

Foreign military members also served as jumpmasters, coordinating with the 58th AS aircrew to help over 800 jumpers safely exit the plane. A few of the U.S. soldiers who worked alongside their foreign partners even wore that country’s flag on their shoulder to capitalize on the teamwork between nations.

“It’s a big event for our international partners,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Mayton, 58th AS loadmaster instructor. “There are about nine countries all together that are jumping, so we’re getting training with units we haven’t seen before.”

The 2022 Operation Toy Drop served as an opportunity to exercise joint partnership with other nations and increase airborne proficiency all while giving back to Airmen and the community during the holiday season.