Operation Toy Drop 2017 underway

The annual Operation Toy Drop holiday toy donation and delivery program hits the skies for 2017 as the holidays approach.

More than 800 soldiers lined up over the weekend to earn a spot in the 20th annual Operation Toy Drop at Fort Bragg.

The airborne operation runs through Friday at the North Carolina post, and it allows paratroopers to earn their foreign jump wings while giving back to children in the community.

The soldiers are encouraged to donate a toy before training with jumpmasters from eight countries. This year’s participants are Colombia, Canada, Latvia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Germany and Poland.

After the airborne operation, the toys are donated to local children in need.

The Operation Toy Drop tradition was established in 1998 by then-Staff Sgt. Randy Oler, a U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command soldier. Operation Toy Drop began as a training event, with more than 1,200 soldiers participating and donating 550 toys.

In 2004, Oler suffered a heart attack and died while performing jumpmaster duties, but support from the Army and community allowed the event to continue. The event nets thousands of toys each year for local children.