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C-17 airdrops paratroopers for a good cause

A good holiday deed earned 450 Army paratroopers the chance to jump from a C-17 on Dec. 4 and 5 and earn new wings.

As part of the 18th annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop, the paratroopers entered a lottery for the chance to make the jump along with foreign jump masters so they could get their foreign jump wings. Most of the paratroopers also donated toys for children in need, although they were not required to do so, said Army Lt. Col. James Lincoln, a spokesman for U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command.

Four hundred and fifty paratroopers jumped out of a C-17 on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 as part of the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop, said Marvin Krause, a spokesman for the 628th Air Base Wing.

Operation Toy Drop began Dec. 3, and additional airdrops are scheduled for this week, said Marvin Krause, a spokesman for the 628th Air Base Wing at . The C-17 from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. The C-17 made a total of five sorties Dec. 4 and 5 over the Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he said.

"Overall, I'd say it was a huge success from our perspective," said Capt. Jason Taylor, of the 14th Airlift Squadron, who piloted the C-17. "Beautiful weather, so that's always a good start for us. Execution-wise, everything pretty much went off without a hitch."

Paratroopers entered a lottery when they donated toys for children in need. The winners were selected make a jump along with foreign jump masters so they could get their foreign jump wings.

The participants "I think we had the additional mindset here that this was for a great cause," Taylor said. "We all had a great time. You could tell the jumpers were having a great time. We also got some training on our end as well, which is an additional bonus."

It was definitely a learning experience for Air Force Staff Sgt. Bounliene Chanthapho, he said.

"This was actually my first personnel airdrop," he said. "It's a good experience for me. It was good for training — and knowing it was for a good cause, I really had a good time."

Army officials are still tallying up the number of toys collected this year, Lincoln, said. In 2014, the event collected raised more than 6,000 toys.

Air Force Master Sgt. Chris Cobb was the loadmaster for the jumps. Cobb said it was interesting to see the foreign jumpmasters work with their army counterparts.

"The fun thing to watch for us was watching them perform the same actions we see our guys perform — our Army jumpmasters — but in their native language, in particular the Indonesians, when they came up and they were running through their checks and having that echoed with the American Army calls, it was really fun to watch," Cobb said.

Because the C-17 is a jet aircraft, the static lines for paratroopers are longer than they are in C-130s, Cobb explained.

"But in talking with the Army — and they'll tell us every single time — they really enjoy jumping out of a C-17," Cobb said. "The ride can tend to be a little bit smoother and the exit is a little bit smoother."

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