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Monthly Archives: December 2009

How the Cold War ended


For two decades, the world has been living with the consequences of events in 1989. As well as the changes in Eastern Europe, the Cold War was winding down. BBC Diplomatic Editor Brian Hanrahan, who has spent the year assessing 1989's legacy, looks at what happened next.

The hard men of the KGB were glued to the TV screen. Upstairs, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev were dealing with great power confrontation.

But down in the basement, Mr Gorbachev's protection detail were watching a different confrontation – between Tom and Jerry.

Behind them smoke started to emerge from the wastepaper basket where one had dropped his cigarette – but they were so engrossed in the Western decadence they were sworn to protect against that nobody noticed.

The all-wooden building would have gone up in flames if the sharp nosed Icelandic caretaker had not ignored diplomatic protocol and stepped into the Soviet sanctum to douse the flames.

So was saved the Hofti House, and the Reykjavik summit in Oct 1986. And America and the Soviet Union were on their way to ending the Cold War.

Another backstairs story from that summit is about the direct telephone line installed to Moscow.

After Mr Gorbachev sprang a surprise with a disarmament package, President Reagan put a counter proposal – much to the concern of his aides because none of this had been anticipated or approved by the president's advisers.

Buried at sea

Mr Gorbachev went off to phone Moscow and returned shaking his head. He was still a comparatively new leader of the Communist Party and could not make deals without the approval of the Politburo.

But fast-forward three years to the Malta summit and we meet a much more confident Mr Gorbachev. In December 1989, he agreed with Reagan's successor, President George Bush, to move from confrontation to co-operation.

The Cold War was dead and, in the words of Mr Gorbachev's spokesman, "buried at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea".

All through 1989 there were two separate processes going on – both brought about by Mr Gorbachev's reforms.

One was the release from Soviet control of Eastern Europe – an explosive, headline-grabbing joyride for everyone involved.

The other was the quieter revolution in relations between East and West – the winding down of the ideological confrontation which for four decades had threatened the world with nuclear annihilation.

This was the real prize for Western leaders and they worried that a gleeful response to the liberation of Eastern Europe could put Mr Gorbachev's position as Soviet leader at risk.

"We couldn't be sure when the Berlin Wall came down that the Cold War would end," says James Baker, who was the US secretary of state at the Malta summit.

"And that's why President Bush was absolutely right when he would not 'dance on the wall' the way a lot of people wanted."

Mr Baker says "by not sticking it in the eye to the Soviets", President Bush made it possible for Mr Gorbachev to foreswear using force to hold the Soviet empire together.

"And he was right. He said: 'We've got a lot of unfinished business with the Soviets.'"

Mr Gorbachev had created a window in Soviet thinking – a window to a more peaceful world. But Western leaders feared it would close if Mr Gorbachev was toppled.

Well of bitterness

In the years that followed, a see-saw battle broke out between the conservatives and the reformers within the Soviet leadership.

I think that in history Gorbachev will not be remembered as a creator, but as the destroyer of the Soviet Union because that's what he did
Leonid Kravchuk first post-Soviet Ukrainian president

Mr Gorbachev struggled to balance himself as the changes which had started in Eastern Europe spread into the Soviet Union itself.

Lord Hurd, who was then the British foreign secretary, says: "It was inevitable. Mr Gorbachev could not be making these changes, these concessions, without criticism, without harsh debates."

The Soviet Union was being asked to relinquish territory it considered part of its status as a superpower – occupation zones, military bases, buffer territories.

"It had been fought over," says Lord Hurd. "It was full of memorials and cemeteries. There was no way that could be abandoned without a huge amount of bitterness inside the former imperial power."

Although Mr Gorbachev was losing power, he held back attempts by the hardliners to revert to the repression which had been characteristic of communist rule.

Without its prison camps and an occasional massacre, the system could not sustain itself.

The hardliners judged, rightly, that what was at stake was the survival of the country itself.

But by the time they moved against Mr Gorbachev they were too late.

The Communist Party which had held the country together was no longer the central source of authority.

Their coup of August 1991 was easily seen off by the reformers under Boris Yeltsin, the new Russian leader.

What developed next was a free-for-all as the leaders of the nations emerging from the Soviet Union grabbed power for themselves.

According to Leonid Kravchuk, who was to become Ukraine's leader, Boris Yeltsin's first thought was to preserve the Soviet Union and replace Mr Gorbachev as leader.

Only after Mr Kravchuk insisted on independence for Ukraine did Yeltsin switch to the idea of splitting the country into separate states.

It is a decision that still rankles with many Russians.

Much of the difficulties in dealing with Russia over the past two decades stem from its self-image as a superpower which ought to be pre-eminent among its neighbours.

But for the other states independence means the power to choose for themselves how close they should be to Russia. It still has not been resolved.

Leonid Kravchuk, the man who says he put Russia in to this position, was a former communist who reinvented himself as a nationalist.

He was in the group that negotiated the splitting-up of the Soviet Union. He remembers Mr Gorbachev's surprise.

"He looked lost," recalls Mr Kravchuk. "For him, like for everyone else, it was so sudden."

He believes Mr Gorbachev did not grasp how history was unfolding, and will be punished by it.

"I think that in history Gorbachev will not be remembered as a creator, but as the destroyer of the Soviet Union because that's what he did," says Mr Kravchuk.

"I am the creator of Ukraine – in history. Yeltsin is the creator of new Russia – in history. And Gorbachev did not create a new union, but destroyed it."

Delayed by Christmas

But outside the old Soviet Union, there will be a kinder judgment. Lord Hurd thinks Mr Gorbachev was well aware of what he was doing.

"We owe Gorbachev a huge debt. He loosened and, in the end, helped to destroy a system, and an antagonism with us, which had paralysed the world in many respects for a generation.

"And he did it largely through his own courage and a perception that the system couldn't last."

Mr Gorbachev did make one concession to save his place in history. He had intended to relinquish the office of Soviet president on 24 December.

But his horrified press aide, Andrei Grachev, reminded him that in most of the world the following day was Christmas Day. There would be no newspapers to record his going.

So the Soviet Union – rooted in atheism – survived an extra day to accommodate the Western Christian calendar.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/8429237.stm

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President Obama has issued an executive order regarding classified information

30 December 2009

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President Obama has issued an executive order regarding classified national security information.

VA Selects Permanent Location for Historic Civil War Monument

WASHINGTON (Dec. 30, 2009) – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has selected the Frazier International History Museum in Louisville, Ky., as the new home of the Bloedner Monument, the nation's oldest Civil War memorial.

The Bloedner Monument was removed from Cave Hill National Cemetery in Louisville in December 2008 and taken to a temporary facility where it was professionally conserved by Conservation Solutions Inc. to arrest further damage.

"The removal of an important monument from a national cemetery is rare and was not undertaken without great deliberation," said Secretary Shinseki. "However, the overwhelming significance of the Bloedner Monument and its failing condition warranted this unusual step."

The monument was carved in January 1862 by Pvt. August Bloedner to commemorate his fellow soldiers of the 32nd Indiana Infantry, all of them German immigrants who fell in the Battle of Rowlett's Station near Munfordville, Ky.  The monument's original location was on the battlefield, marking the graves of 13 soldiers who perished there.  When most of these remains were removed to Cave Hill National Cemetery in 1867, the Bloedner Monument was moved there as well.

VA historians, in collaboration with the Kentucky Heritage Council and Heritage Preservation Inc., selected the Frazier International Museum as the new home from three interested facilities based on Civil War exhibit plans, controlled environment and security, financial stability, annual visitation and proximity to Cave Hill National Cemetery.

The monument was fabricated from St. Genevieve limestone, with a base of Bedford limestone added in 1867.  It measures approximately 5 feet long, 1 foot deep and 3 ½ feet high.  The monument is carved on one side with a relief of an eagle and an inscription in German in a rustic script.  The text was approximately 300 words and 2,500 characters long at the time it was carved.  Because of the poor quality of the limestone and effects of the environment, the monument has lost a significant amount of material.  Only about 50 percent of the original carving and inscription remains.

The monument was temporarily relocated to a University of Louisville facility for treatment while VA conducted a thorough evaluation of potential sites.  The evaluation process included written proposals and site visits.  VA posted information on the Internet, mailed information to Veterans and Civil War heritage groups and held a public information meeting to solicit suggestions.

A new monument, with an interpretive sign explaining the significance of the original Bloedner Monument and indicating its location, will be placed at Cave Hill National Cemetery in 2010.

Speedy Recovery

Speedy Recovery

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Tue, 29 Dec 2009 08:14:37 -0600

When American Soldiers are injured in Afghanistan they are taken to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for treatment.

8 Tax Tips for Veterans

Author: Roni Deutch

1. Keep Records

To qualify and receive most Veterans’ tax benefits, you will need to verify your status as a U.S. Veteran. Therefore, it is important to keep your records in a safe place with your other financial documents. If you do lose any of these records, you will need to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs to obtain new ones.

2. Know About Property Tax Exemptions

There are a few types of property tax exemptions available to Veterans. The first is the Veterans’ Real Property Tax Exemption that allows a qualifying Vet to take a partial exemption for property purchased with eligible funds. The second is the Cold War Veterans Exemption, which exempts those who fought in the cold war from paying property taxes. However, some counties and cities have opted out of this program so be sure to check with your local tax department.

Last but not least, the alternative Veterans exemption is available to Veterans with residential property that have served during wartime and/or received an expeditionary medal. Similar to the Cold War Veterans Exemption, some local governments may opt out of offering this exemption. With any property tax exemptions you should always speak with a local tax professional to make sure you do not pay any taxes that you are not required to.

3. Taxes on Income and Retirement

Unfortunately, any income you receive from the military that is based on age or length of service is taxable income and must be included on your tax return. However, you will usually not have the standard taxes withheld from your checks like you would with a standard paycheck.

4. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided some assistance to struggling families and businesses through the making work pay tax credit. However, the credit unfortunately created problems for many veterans. After it was enacted, the new law reduced the amount of money being taken out of American worker’s paychecks. Although Veterans are not eligible for the credit, they will still have fewer taxes withheld as part of the new “one-size-fits-all” IRS guidelines. Therefore, you may be surprised to find you owe a significant tax liability in April.

5. Track your Tax Liability

Because of the problems created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as well as the fact that taxes are not withheld from military payments, it is import to keep track of tax liability. If you are going to owe the IRS money, then you might want to make an estimated tax payment to prevent unnecessary fees or penalties. Alternatively, you may want to adjust your withholdings. If you feel you may end up owing taxes due to the change, you may want to consult with a tax preparer for the best way to counter-act the change.

6. Check State Benefits

In addition to the Federal tax benefits offered to Veterans, many state and local governments offer benefits as well. However, you will need to check with your state’s tax collection agency and possibly a local tax professional to find out exactly what options are available to you.

7. Job Search Assistance

If you are a Veteran who has to go back to the regular workforce, then you may be able to take advantage of a specific set of tax incentives. On your next tax return you can deduct expenses paid for creating a résumé, telephone call fees to prospective employers, employment agency fees, and any traveling expenses related to your job hunt.

8. Free Tax Filing

Many military personnel and their families will qualify to receive free online tax filing through the IRS website. Qualifying factors may change by location and situation so be sure to check with your local tax authorities and the IRS.gov website for more information.

About the Author:

The Tax Lady Roni Deutch and her law firm Roni Deutch, A Professional Tax Corporation have been helping taxpayers across the nation find IRS tax relief for over seventeen years. The firm has experienced tax lawyers who can fight IRS tax liens on your behalf.

Article Source: ArticlesBase.com8 Tax Tips for Veterans

More Unit and Vet Groups

41st Armored Infantry Regiment

 

60th Infantry Regiment

 

66th Armored Infantry Regiment

 

134th Infantry Regiment (unofficial)

 

141st Infantry Regiment

 

224th Infantry Regiment

 

314th Infantry Regiment

 

196th Light Infantry Brigade Association

 

501st Parachute Infantry Regiment

 

504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

 

533d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment

 

552d Military Poice Company

 

5th Ranger Battalion

 

22d Tank Battalion

 

36th Tank Battalion

 

41st Tank Battalion

 

42d Tank Battalion

 

70th Tank Battalion

 

702d Tank Battalion

 

707th Tank Battalion

 

737th Tank Battalion

 

746th Tank Battalion

 

750th Tank Battalion

 

756th Tank Battalion

 

761st Tank Battalion

 

778th Tank Battalion

 

784th Tank Battalion

 

634th Tank Destroyer Battalion

 

635th Tank Destroyer Battalion

 

776th Tank Destroyer Battalion

1st Signal Brigade Association

 

13th Signal Battalion

 

43rd Signal Battalion

 

52nd Signal Battalion


459th Signal Battalion

 

71st Transportation Battalion

 

11 Bmos – "The Infantry Network"

 

Alamo Scouts

 

Americal Division Veterans Association

 

American GI Forum

 

American Military Retirees Association

 

AMVETS

 

American Veterans Remembered

 

Armed Forces Benefits Association

 

Armed Forces Retirement Home

 

Army Air Crews

 

Army Counter Intelligence Corps Veterans, Inc.

 

Army Engineer Association

 

Army Nurse Corps Association

 

Army Reserve Association

 

Association of the 3d Armored Division
Veterans and Museum

 

Association of the United States Army

 

Ben Myers Associations and Alumni Database

 

Blinded Veterans Association

 

Blue Star Mothers of America

 

Congressional Medal of Honor Society

 

Cold War Veterans Association

 

Combat Helicopter Pilots Association

 

Combat Infantrymen's Association

 

Disabled American Veterans


 

Distinguished Flying Cross Society

Dustoff Association

 

Enlisted Association of the National Guard

 

European Defense Veterans of America

 

Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans

 

Helmets to Hardhats

 

Jewish War Veterans

 

Judge Advocate General's Corps

 

Legion of Valor

 

Library of Congress: Veterans History Project

 

Military Order of the World Wars

 

Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States

 

Military.com

 

Military Intelligence Corps Association

 

Military Officers Association of America

 

National Glider Pilots Association

 

National Infantry Foundation

 

National Veterans Organization of America

 

Normandy Allies

 

Philippine Scouts Heritage Society

 

Phu Lam Signal Battalion

 

Rainbow Division Veterans Association
(42nd Infantry Division)

 

Sergeants Major Association

 

Society of the 173d Airborne Brigade

 

Society of the Fifth Division

 

Society of the First Infantry Division

 

Society of the Honor Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

 

Society of the Miltary Horse

 

Society of the Third Infantry Division

 

Special Forces Association

 

Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) Veterans Association

 

Sykes' Regulars Living History Group

 

The 30th Infantry Division Association

 

The American Legion National Headquarters

 

The Official U.S. Army 2nd Armored
"Hell on Wheels" Division Site

 

The OSS Society, Inc.

 

The United States Armor Association

 

U.S. Cavalry Association

 

The United States Constabulary

 

U.S. Army Ranger Association

 

U.S. 2nd and 5th Ranger Infantry Battaions

 

U.S. Army Warrant Officers Association

 

Warrant Officer Heritage Foundation


 

VII Corps Desert Storm Veterans Association

 

Vetfriends.com

 

Veterans Wall of Honor

 

Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc.
Dean K. Phillips Memorial Chapter – Chapter 227 (Northern Virginia)

 

WW II Veterans

 

VeteransVoices.org

 

Vets With A Mission

 

22nd Infantry Regiment Society

 

2nd Missile Battalion, 71st Artillery (Taiwan) Association

 

The Nike Historical Society

 

Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association

 

Women's Overseas Service League

Links to Unit and Veteran Organizations from The National Army Museum, a nice list and resource

Links to Unit and Veteran Organizations

The National Museum of the United States Army is being built to honor the American Soldier. It will have a special gallery devoted to Army Veterans, a Memorial Garden, and digitial records, like the Soldier's Registry where you can record your military service for posterity. To learn more about The National Army Museum, follow this link

 

443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion

 

1st Armored Division

 

2nd Armored Division

 

3d Armored Division

 

3d Armored Division History Site

 

5th Armored Division

 

6th Armored Division

 

7th Armored Division

 

9th Armored Division

 

10th Armored Division

 

11th Armored Division

 

12th Armored Division

 

14th Armored Division

2d Squadron, 1st Cavalry Association

 

11th Armored Cavalry Veterans of Vietnam & Cambodia

 

77th Armor (Steel Tigers) Association

 

100th Infantry Division Association

 

90th Infantry Division Association

 

13th Airborne Division

 

17th Airborne Division

 

101st Airborne Division Association

 

1st Airborne Task Force

 

1st Aviation Brigade, Vietnam

 

116th Assault Helicopter Company

 

187th Assault Helicopter Company

 

188th Assault Helicopter Company

 

240th Assault Helicpoter Company

 

242d Assault Helicpoter Company

 

104th Infantry Division Association

 

106th Infantry Division Association

 

10th Mountain Division Association

 

5th Engineer Battalion

 

15th Engineer Battalion (Combat) Association

 

37th Engineer Battalion

 

82nd Engineer Combat Battalion

 

295th Engineer Battalion

 

299th Engineer Battalion

 

585th Engineer Company

 

588th Engineer Battalion

 

7th Battalion/ 8th Artillery Association

 

14th Field Artillery Regiment Association

 

15th Field Artillery Regiment

 

17th Field Artillery Regiment Association

 

21st Field Artillery Regiment

 

29th Field Artillery Regiment

 

30th Field Artillery Regiment Association

 

77th Field Artillery Regiment

 

82d Field Artillery

 

65th Field Artillery Battalion

 

87th Field Artillery Battalion

 

92d Field Artillery Battalion

 

243d Field Artillery Battalion

 

275th Field Artillery Battalion

 

419th Field Artillery Battalion

 

463d Parachute Field Artillery Battalion

 

553 Field Artillery Battalion

 

325th Glider Infantry Association

 

17th Infantry Regiment Association

 

18th Infantry Regiment Association

 

1st Cavalry Division Association

 

2d Cavalry Division

 

1st Cavalry Division Association Alumni of the First Team

 

4th Cavalry Regiment

 

7th Cavalry Regiment

 

8th Cavalry Regiment

 

14th Cavalry Regiment

 

112th Cavalry Regiment

 

124th Cavalry Regiment

 

1st Infantry Division

1st Infantry Division Oral History Interviews

 

3d Infantry Division

 

5th Infantry Division

 

6th Infantry Division

 

26th Infantry Division

 

27th Infantry Division

 

32d Infantry Division

 

35th Infantry Division in World War II

 

36th Infantry Division

 

40th Infantry Division

 

43rd Infantry Division Association

 

44th Infantry Division

 

45th Infantry Division

 

65th Infantry Division

 

75th Infantry Division

 

76th Infantry Division

 

77th Infantry Division

 

79th Infantry Division

 

80th Infantry Division

 

84th Infantry Division

 

86th Infantry Division

 

89th Infantry Division

 

90th Infantry Division

 

92d Infantry Division

 

93d Infantry Division

 

95th Infantry Division

 

96th Infantry Division

 

100th Infantry Division

 

104th Infantry Division

 

106th Infantry Division

 

225th AAA Searchlight Battalion

 

25th Infantry Division Association

 

26th Infantry Regiment Association

 

275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion

 

33rd Infantry Division Association

 

34th Infantry Division Association

 

35th Infantry Division

 

3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division

 

41st Infantry Division

 

43rd Infantry Division Association

 

45th Division Association

 

4th Infantry Division Association

 

5th Armored Division Association

 

63rd Infantry Division Association

 

69th Infantry Division

 

70th Infantry Division Association

 

71st Infantry Division Association

 

78th Infantry Division Veterans Association

 

7th Infantry Division Association

 

83rd Infantry Division Association

 

87th Infantry Division Association

 

88th Infantry Division Association

 

89th Division Society of World War II

 

8th Armored Division Association

 

94th Infantry Division Association

 

99th Infantry Division Association

 

5th Infantry Regiment "Bobcats"

 

7th Infantry Regiment

 

9th Infantry Regiment

 

15th Infantry Regiment

 

16th Infantry Regiment

 

27th Infantry Regiment

 

28th Infantry Regiment

 

31st Infantry Regiment

 

35th Infantry Regiment

DoD Looks at Long-term Health Effects of Burn Pits

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2009 – The Defense Department has launched a study on the possible long-term effects of the smoke emitted from burn pits used in overseas locations such as Iraq.

Armed services medical officials are conducting studies on the health outcomes of individuals that have been deployed to identify any health conditions associated with smoke exposure.

Burn pit smoke can cause some acute health effects in some people, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. These can include eye irritation, upper respiratory ailments and coughing.

"To date, we don't have any information on any longer-term health risks that may be associated with burn pit smoke inhalation," Whitman said.

This is the second study of the effects inhaling burn pit smoke may have. The first study used an Environmental Protection Agency risk assessment method to determine what effects the smoke at Balad Air Base, Iraq, had on personnel exposed to it.

"We determined at that time, that there was no long-term health effects that were expected due to inhalation of burn pit smoke to the personnel assigned there," Whitman said.

However, there has been persistent concern about the possible effects, prompting the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center study. "The department's No. 1 priority is the health of our servicemembers," Whitman said. "Whenever concerns of this nature are raised we want to make sure they are being addressed properly and when appropriate studied for any long-term effects."

The Defense Department recognizes that some individuals may be more susceptible to the effects of burn pits because of genetics or pre-existing health conditions. Other factors may contribute to long-term effects including smoking, inhaling dust particles and working around heavy machinery.

The health centers expect a preliminary report out early next year.

Related Sites:
Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center news release

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Update your subscriptions, modify your password or e-mail address, or stop subscriptions at any time by clicking on your 'User Profile' page at https://service.govdelivery.com/service/user.html?code=USDOD. You will need to use your e-mail address to log in. If you have questions or problems with the subscription service, please e-mail support@govdelivery.com.

Have another inquiry? Visit the online FAQ at http://www.defense.gov/landing/questions.aspx for up-to-date information.

Get the help you, your family, and fellow servicemembers need, when you need it. Visit www.WarriorCare.mil to learn more.

Check out the National Resource Directory at www.nationalresourcedirectory.org, a new web-based resource for wounded, ill and injured service members, veterans, their families, families of the fallen and those who support them from the Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs.

This service is provided to you at no charge by U.S. Department of Defense. Visit us on the web at http://www.defense.gov/.

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Happy Birthday Jesus

Airmen, ‘Soldier Santas’ Conduct Toy Drop

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By Air Force Capt. Lauri Turpin
Special to American Forces Press Service

POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C., Dec. 24, 2009 – You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. But on Dec. 6, it was not a team of reindeer, but Air Force Maj. Jeff Dasher, a navigator in the 95th Airlift Squadron here, who guided the mission for the 440th Airlift Wing's C-130 Hercules that flew a group of "Soldier Santas" across the morning sky.

One might say he was born for this mission.

"It's the name," Dasher said with a chuckle. "I had to be on this flight."

His flight was part of the 12th annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop, a program sponsored by Fort Bragg, N.C., and Pope Air Force Base officials providing toys to needy children in the Fayetteville, N.C., area. The toys, donated by the participating servicemembers, are delivered to children in time for Christmas.

More than 1,200 Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps suited up in their jump gear to be a part of the charity event, which brought participants from as far away as Germany.

Air Force Col. Merle Hart, 440th Airlift Wing commander, greeted the paratroopers as they checked their gear and marched toward the flightline to board Dasher's C-130.

"I'm proud that the 440th can be a part of this operation," Hart said. "This is a great outreach that our soldiers can provide and a token of our support to the children of other military members and the local community."

This year, the 440th Airlift Wing, in conjunction with the Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing from Charlotte, N.C., and the Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing from Youngstown, Ohio, provided airlift for the day's event.

Since its inception 12 years ago, the program has become so popular that Army paratroopers have to win a lottery to participate. To enter the lottery, each paratrooper must buy a toy for one of the needy area children. Though only 1,200 lucky winners actually jump, far more choose to participate and bring donated gifts to Fort Bragg.

For more than 1,000 children, these soldiers and airmen flew in a promise to them that they would have a very merry Christmas.

"They have a massive wrapping session," said Air Force Lt. Col. William Whittenberger, 440th Operations Group commander. "A lot of the wives and families help out. It becomes a big party."

Whittenberger was mission commander for this year's Toy Drop and also flew one of the C-130s.

"We've got 1,200 troops to drop in a fairly short time frame, so we're doing a parallel running course that's 17 miles long, and it is about 12 minutes from takeoff to drop," he said. "Our goal is five minutes between each air frame."

For Army Pfc. Caleb Wood, a 20-year-old soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, it would be only his sixth jump. Along with other members of his chalk, Wood waited in the passenger terminal shelter on the Pope flightline as other soldiers prepared their gear.

"It's my first year doing this," Wood said. "I bought a tricycle to support the event."

As Wood stood in line for his turn, Army 1st Lt. Judith Wood from 126th Transportation Company, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, waited for her turn to climb inside the fuselage of a C-130 to jump.

"I enjoy this because it's a rush, and it's great for the kids," she said. "I hope I'm here again next year. They tell you not to look down, but when you're there, you can't help it. We ask ourselves why we're doing this, but when we jump, it's all worth it."

Seated on the bleachers set out in the red sand against the stark winter-blue sky, family members waited alongside the Sicily Drop Zone on the far side of Fort Bragg for their loved ones. As the C-130 approached, they held up their hands to shield their eyes against the glare of the sun. The plane flew in smoothly, and one by one, the dark silhouettes of the soldiers dipped out of the plane and snapped straight, as one after another their parachutes ballooned into perfect mushrooms.

The line of parachutes stretched along the field as those soldiers who had already completed their flight marched in formation past the bleachers.

Meghan Scott and her husband, Army Capt. Andrew Scott of the Air Defense Battalion, donated a Candyland game.

"[My husband] loves to jump, and it's a great way to help out," she said. "We're very fortunate to live the way we do, so this is just a small way to give back."

(Air Force Capt. Lauri Turpin serves with the 440th Airlift Wing.)

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