Santa Claus is grounded as paratroopers deliver gifts to German kids
By WILL MORRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 7, 2017
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – A group of paratroopers spread holiday cheer to local children on Wednesday and won themselves qualification to wear foreign jumping wings when they landed in a field here to deliver Christmas presents.
Santa, the event’s main draw, did not qualify for his wings because he couldn’t get out of the plane.
About 100 paratroopers conducted a series of static and free-fall jumps this week run by 5th Quarter Master Theater Arial Delivery Company, based at Rhine Ordnance Barracks. They came from the Army, Marines and Air Force, along with jumpers from Germany and the Netherlands
Wednesday’s culminating event was a low-level cargo drop of toys, followed by a free-fall by Santa Claus from a C-130 in front of a group of screaming, happy German children. If only the jump had gone according to plan.
The drop time was pushed back an hour because of bad weather. When the planes did finally arrive and two crates popped over the drop zone, a group of about 70 fourth-graders a public school in Flomborn began running down a road to intercept the crates, briefly delaying the jump.
Once the children were cleared from the drop zone, two Air Force C-130s and a German C-160 began making passes over the field. Chute after chute opened, but the man in red was nowhere in sight.
Santa couldn’t safely make a free-fall jump because the cloud base was too low. If he had done a static-line jump, as had everyone else, he would have likely landed in a pile of mud. Instead, he made a delayed appearance in the back of a cargo truck.
The paratroopers, who contributed the gifts themselves, then handed out the presents to the group of children, some American, some German. One solider said the event was “awesome.” The girl who got his gift was crying because it was so cold.
The U.S. jumpers from this week’s training activity will qualify to wear foreign jump wings, a coveted distinction among paratroopers. The wings are awarded for jumping under direction of a foreign jumpmaster, for jumping from the plane of another county, or for using a foreign parachute.
Part of the payoff in the training, paratroopers said, was comparing notes and jump techniques.
“It’s really great because it helps get everybody on the same page,” said Staff Sgt. Brent Gogin of 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
First Lt. Kelly Washington, of the 5th QMTADC, said jumping out of a German plane was different than it is from a U.S. plane.
“You have to be more aggressive,” he said. “You have to clear the plane yourself, so you have to make an aggressive exit.”