Operation Toy Drop lands in Fayetteville

December 9, 2011 10:08:46 AM PST
Thousands of soldiers lined up at Pope Army Airfield before light Friday morning to make sure all the good boys and girls in the Fort Bragg family have something nice under the tree this Christmas.

From bicycles to action figures, the troops brought presents to donate to the Operation Toy Drop program.

"As an Eagle Scout I've done this kind of thing before where I went out on a toy drive, so I think it's really important so that everyone can have a Christmas," Fort Bragg Soldier Spec. Jonathan Maten said.

For the last 14 years, Operation Toy Drop has helped families in need during the holidays. Last year, more than 10,000 toys were collected. This year, the program went national, and organizers hope to push that number to 25,000.

The Fayetteville community is also on board.

"We've got toys donated by the kids at E. Melvin Honeycutt Elementary School, bikes boys and girls toys from all ages. Got the whole truck loaded up," said Willie Wellbrock with Operation Toy Drop.

"I think it's a very nice program helping the people of Fayetteville," Uruguay Army Capt. Ignacio Martinez said. "It's an honor for us to be here to can help the people from Fayetteville too."

Click here for more on the history of how the program got started

There's something in it for the soldiers too. By taking part, paratroopers are put into a lottery for a chance to earn foreign jump wings from allied soldiers around the world. Eleven allied countries have sent jumpmasters: Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Thailand, Ukraine, and Uruguay.

"Most of the soldiers are trying to get the Thai Wings because they're the largest and they're really hard to get because Thai doesn't get here very often. And they're hand embroidered," said Becky Caldwell with Operation Toy Drop.

Fort Bragg Soldier Pfc. Jake Ovitt is one of the lucky ones. His number was called. He'll earn some new wings.

"I actually brought this it's called an Aqua Doodle," Ovitt said. "Magic Markers and it writes only on the paper, which is good for parents so I figured it would be a good toy."

The sponsor is the Army Reserve's U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command - headquartered at Fort Bragg. The Air Force Reserve's 440th Airlift Wing is in charge of the airplanes. C-130 cargo airplanes have come from around the United States.

The mass jump takes place at 8 a.m. Saturday on Sicily Drop Zone.

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