“Dieci minuti! Preparare!”
These Italian commands meaning “ten minutes” and “get ready,” were heard echoed throughout an aircraft hangar in Pope Army Airfield at Fort Bragg, N.C. as foreign jumpmasters from around the world rehearsed airborne procedures alongside U.S. Army jumpmasters on Dec. 5, 2012.
The rehearsals are part of a week-long project, coordinated by the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg.
The project, the Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop, is an annual event where Fort Bragg and other communities collect and donate toys to children and social service agencies in need during the holidays.
Although the event was created to help the local community and those in need, it also provides U.S. paratroopers a chance to earn foreign jump wings by conducting airborne operations with foreign jumpmasters.
Jumpmasters – expert parachutists – from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Uruguay are some of those foreign jumpmasters that will be collaborating in the largest multinational airborne operation in the world slated for Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 on Fort Bragg.
“It is great to be here,” said Dutch army Sgt. 1st Class Sander Middag, a jumpmaster of the Dutch Defense Parachute School in Breda, Netherlands.
“It is an excellent initiative,” said Chilean army Lt. Col. Aquiles Gloffka about the uniqueness of the event.
Both Middag and Gloffka are two of more than 30 jumpmasters participating in this year’s event.
During joint and combined operations like this, foreign jumpmasters are able to learn and observe some of the differences between the other countries.
“Many of the parachute drills are very similar,” explained Middag. But unlike the U.S., the Dutch parachute school provides jumpmaster support to units throughout Holland since individual airborne units don’t have their own jumpmasters like the U.S. does.
For Gloffka, what was most captivating for him was seeing the U.S. Army’s involvement within the community.
“One of the good things the U.S. Army does is it helps the community a lot,” explained Gloffka. “We should imitate that in Chile.”
This year, according to their website, Operation Toy Drop hopes to collect and distribute more than the 20,000 toys collected last year.
“They are good people – good discipline, and very experienced,” explained Middag. “And I look forward to coming again next year.”
For more information about the Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop, visit http://optoydrop.blogspot.com.