Dobbins Airmen help Army paratroopers jump into holidays

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kendra Ransum
  • 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Amidst a crisp blue sky, a Dobbins C-130H3 Hercules soars above Georgia, carrying within it several Army paratroopers poised to execute their airborne maneuvers. As the landing zone drew close, jumpmasters swiftly usher readied paratroopers out of the plane one-by-one, each descending to the ground below with toys in tow, ready to spread holiday cheer.

A 94th Airlift Wing aircrew departed from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. on Dec. 13, 2023, and joined forces with the U.S. Army and partner nations in Operation Toy Drop, an annual parachute training event for soldiers to directly support the local community by donating toys to charities, at Fort Moore, Ga.

“Today’s event is a traditional event that the Airborne communities across the Department of Defense conduct,” said U.S. Army Maj. Ryan M. Gallagher, Battalion Operations Officer from the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Moore. “We come together as a community to collect toys for donations to local charities and take the opportunity to integrate with our foreign airborne partners and the overall international airborne community.”

Gallagher also served as the Airborne Commander for this year’s Toy Drop. He has participated in the jump three times before, but this is his first time participating as the operation’s Airborne Commander.

Across a total of four lifts, approximately 150 paratroopers descended into the Fryar Drop Zone near Fort Moore.

Jumpmasters and paratroopers from the armies of Chile, Germany and the United Kingdom also took part in the operation.

“For us, the Chilean Army, it is very important to create bonds with the United States Air Force and Army because it shows that we can continue working together anywhere,” said Chilean Army Maj. Gen. Marcos Jaque, a jumpmaster. “We’re very proud and grateful to have the opportunity to work together, to have this important operation to give kids happiness. We hope to continue doing this for many years.”

According to Gallagher, when foreign nations participate in these types of operations as airborne jumpers, it is a way to increase and build relationships and upward mobility with them. It develops the airborne community relationships with various military units throughout Central America, South America and Europe.

Additionally, U.S. Army Parachutists earn Foreign Jump Wings, also known as Parachutist Wings, upon successful completion of parachutist training conducted under the guidance of a foreign jumpmaster.

During this year’s two-day Operation Toy Drop, the event gained extra support from the Air Force compared to previous years.

“Yesterday, we had a C-17 crew from South Carolina support us as well as the Kentucky National Guard and Dobbins supporting us today,” Gallagher said. “The more support we can get from the Air Force, the larger the event can have. The fact that we had three separate units from the Air Force come and support our operation allows us to include more soldiers across our Airborne community who are then able to donate more toys and thus give more back to the community.” 

The 94th Airlift Wing's portion of Operation Toy Drop was conducted by one C-130H3 aircraft carrying around 55 paratroopers for the first three static jumps. The fourth and final lift carried six U.S. Army soldiers from the Silver Wings Parachute Demonstration Team, who conducted a high altitude - low opening, or HALO, jump.

A static line jump involves paratroopers hooking to a steel cable within the aircraft then as they jump out, the static line pulls open and deploys their parachute. A HALO jump, in comparison, is performed at a much higher elevation and each parachutist deploys their own canopy after being in freefall.

As the Army was able to accomplish its goal of donating toys to children for the holiday season, Operation Toy Drop was also an opportunity for Dobbins Airmen to stay on top of their readiness.

“We were able to use the opportunity to accomplish a lot of local training,” said Capt. Juan Castaneda, 700th Airlift Squadron pilot. “We did a pilot check ride and our navigators were able to regain currency on HALO procedures. Our flight surgeon had her first tactical flight with the squadron. We were also able to validate the slow route that Dobbins is responsible for maintaining.”

Operation Toy Drop is a long-standing tradition for the Airborne community that plans to continue being an annual tradition for years to come. Roughly 450 toys were donated for this year’s Operation Toy Drop.

“From us, the 507th, from behalf of my commander and everyone, we’re just ecstatic at the support we’ve been given,” Gallagher said. “We’ve had the opportunity to make this a larger event than we are typically able to. We are extremely appreciative of that and we hope we can continue that success in the future as we do this next year and the years after.”