Operation Santa provides gifts to military children
Sgt. Maj. Nathan Espey and Master Sgt. Marc Rabins, both with Air Traffic Services Command, wrap gifts that Soldiers choose for their children during Operation Santa Dec. 5. while other Soldiers look at presents.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 12, 2013) -- The holiday spirit of giving is more than just providing for one's own Family for the Fort Rucker Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, it is providing for everyone's Family, including its own Army Family.

For the past several months, commencing with an NCO run Oct. 4, SAMC has been gathering toys for the children of Fort Rucker Soldiers, mainly junior enlisted Soldiers, during its first ever Operation Santa, and with the holiday quickly approaching the toys were handed out last week to appreciative Families, said 1st Sgt. Jeremy Lindner, Fort Rucker SAMC president.

"We thought that we should do something to give back to Army Families, because that's what we're all about," he said. "We're a group of NCOs and we're all about the Army, and any time that we can, we're going to help Army Families."

Command Sgt. Maj. James H. Thomson Jr., command sergeant major of the Aviation Branch, said the idea for Operation Santa came about during a meeting when a member mentioned a similar program at another installation. He said he was briefed on the program by Lindner and has been behind the endeavor ever since.

"Operation Santa not only benefits those Families who can use a little help during the holiday season, but also allows those looking for ways to give of themselves a venue in which to do so," he said. "There is also a leader development component to this if you consider that our Army expects our NCOs to be leaders of character. What a great example this event is to demonstrate a visible representation of NCOs living up to the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer."

Other organizations helped out with gathering toys and donating Christmas items, and Linder said the program wouldn't have been as successful without their help.

"We brought together other organizations to help make this the best it could be," he said. "Operation Homefront donated stocking stuffers and Alabama Blue Star Families donated books. Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers got involved and Trees For Troops will give out trees to Soldiers (today.)"

The Soldiers who received gifts were submitted by their unit's first sergeant. The Soldiers who were submitted were told when and where to go and then were provided gifts.

Around 160 Families, with approximately 350 children, were submitted, said Linder.

Because there is such a large amount of officers on post, Linder said they wanted to support a program that benefited junior enlisted Soldiers so they knew that their needs are not forgotten about.

"This is just an opportunity for us to have a program that will benefit them," he said. "It is not to exclude anybody . . . but we are going to focus on the junior enlisted and young NCOs with Families."

Linder said that he would like the submission period to be open longer so more Families can be included next year.

"(In) need is such a relative (term), but the Families are often the ones who suffer when we have to work long hours and go on deployments. And if we can give back to those Families through a program like this, I would love to see it grow," he said.

Parents were allowed to pick one large gift, which were wrapped for the parents, two stocking stuffers and one book per child.

The thrift shop donated a grant of $1,500 for the program, which allowed SAMC representatives to buy gifts for older teenagers that are harder to shop for.

"It is easy to get a gift for a young boy, but hard to shop for girls and boys 14 and older. So, many of our gifts were lacking in those categories. The grant allowed us to get appropriate gifts for them," said the SAMC president.

Sgt. James Hughett, B Company, 1st Battalion, 11th Aviation Regiment, looked through the gifts with his wife, Randi, and said that the gifts were a complete surprise for them.

"The gifts were really good gifts, so I know our children will be really excited when they open them," he said, adding that he has four children.

"This program is amazing, we are absolutely thankful for this," said Randi. "It will really help out our Family this year."

Page last updated Thu December 12th, 2013 at 00:00