Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska -- The 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion (Airborne), along with other paratroopers from across the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, gave back to the citizens of the greater Anchorage and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson communities by participating in a canned food drive here Nov. 16-17, 2016.
The food drive was the key feature of Operation Harvest Drop, which rewarded paratroopers who donated food items with the privilege of jumping 'Hollywood', meaning without any attached combat gear, during the next day's airborne operation at Malemute Drop Zone on JBER.
"I started the whole thing with the idea that since we do jump proficiency on a regular basis, why not have our soldiers help out the community in various ways of serving and giving back," said Capt. Douglas Cummings, command chaplain for the 6th BEB and officer in charge for the operation.
The operation was set up and executed similarly to that of Fort Bragg's 'Operation Toy Drop' with the idea of expanding the effort to provide food to members of the local community who are in need.
After counting the number of canned goods donated, the total weight of all food donated amounted to approximately 3,000 pounds. The food was then divided between the Food Bank of Alaska and the Armed Services Young Men's Christian Association (ASYMCA).
"This being the Thanksgiving period, we wanted to look at something to give back to needy military families as well as needy local civilian families out there in the Anchorage area," said Lt Col. James Moulton, commanding officer of the 6th BEB. "[This was a way] to show the local community and JBER the spirit of giving that paratroopers have and that we're here to not only to support and defend the Constitution, but also support, defend and contribute to our local community."
To ensure their spot on the jump paratroopers had to donate canned goods or other non-perishables. Sgt. Clement Scharf, a cavalry scout with 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Calvary Regiment, donated the most cans with a count of 142.
"I love jumping and I believe [donating cans of food] for a good cause is a good thing," said Scharf. "I need to jump and people need to eat."
Canned goods that were donated went to the Food Bank of Alaska to help the local community and dry food went to ASYMCA to help needy military families on JBER.
"What we tend to find is a lot of seasonal need [around] Christmas time and the holidays in general," said Mrs. Alita McClain, marketing and public relations specialist for the ASYMCA. "There is a lot more money going out the door because you're trying to do something nice for your kids, but there is not always any more money coming in."
Every item of food donated is appreciated, said McClain, who went on to encourage those looking to donate to contact their local food bank to find out exactly what is of higher need so that needy families receive well balanced, nutritional meals.
"It gives us a surplus of food for this time of year, but the surplus doesn't always last so there are those lean months in the year [where we] encourage food drives to happen," said Mark Redmon, food donation coordinator for Food Bank of Alaska. And this may not be the last food drive that the Spartan Brigade conducts as Cummings already has plans in the making for another around next summer.