VICENZA, Italy — More than 30 paratroopers or “Sky Soldiers” from the 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion (BEB), 173rd Airborne Brigade loaded 140 toys in their ruck sacks and marched to their partnered towns of Camisano Vicentino and Quinto Vicentino on Dec. 15, bringing some holiday cheer and Sky Soldier culture to their communities.
Airborne units across the U.S. Army annually hold an event known as “Toy Drop” around the holiday season, which typically consists of paratroopers donating toys to a community or an orphanage. Some units exchange the toy for a chance to earn foreign parachutist wings.
U.S Army Garrison Italy is currently fielding a Community Alliance Program, or CAP, to engage with the Italian communities to increase awareness and appreciation for the surrounding areas, promote the U.S. military’s mission in a positive manner and foster a strong relationship and sense of common purpose within the surrounding areas.
As the airborne engineers marched into the towns, their ruck sacks filled with gift-wrapped toys, they were greeted by the local Italian citizens, all with their cell phones out and taking videos of their loud and proud marching cadences. They filed into the town halls and filled tables with toys.
While the Sky Soldiers delivered presents, Mayor Renzo Marangon of Camisano and Deputy Mayor Pierfranco Sette of Quinto both took time to express their appreciation for the unit’s continued outreach and express their desire for more events like these between the Italy-based airborne engineer unit and their respective communities.
As part of the continuous CAP efforts in the Vicenza Military Community, each battalion in the 173rd Airborne Brigade is partnered with at least one local Italian community. The 173rd’s two units stationed in Germany are also partnered with German communities. Every battalion command team coordinates engagements with their corresponding local leaders to be inclusive of each other’s culture and events.
The community relations specialist for USAG Italy, Anna Ciccotti, normally helps coordinate events between Vicenza units and their communities. She has been working with the 54th BEB for years.
“The bond of friendship between the 54th BEB and their partnered towns has been the example of what a true partnership should look like,” Anna said. “Commander after commander, there is always a strong willingness to continue to further the relationship.”
The action officer who pieced the event together from a simple desire to be good neighbors was Capt. Vernon Snyder, a chaplain with the 54th BEB Chaplain.
“I think it's so important to be able to give generously,” Snyder said.
“What I wanted to do was ensure that we solidified the partnership between our unit and our host nation partner communities. We wanted to shake hands and we wanted to see our friends face to face. We wanted our paratroopers to get out into the community and make these friendships. It makes a stronger partnership and a stronger Europe.”
The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deployable forces to the United States European, Africa and Central Command areas of responsibility. Forward deployed across Italy and Germany, the brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build partnerships and strengthen the alliance.