Fort Riley, Kansas


‘Devil’ brigade Soldiers deliver toys for Operation Santa

By Andy Massanet | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | December 08, 2017

     A team of Santa’s helpers in four-wheeled reindeer and sleigh bore a striking resem­blance to Soldiers of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, as they delivered approxi­mately 900 toys to the Opera­tion Santa Claus workshop at Rally Point Dec. 1.

     Actually, they were Sol­diers of the 1st ABCT, oth­erwise known as the “Devil” brigade.”

     In unseasonably mild, sunny weather, a convoy — Humvees with antlers and a M1078 Light Medium Tac­tical Vehicle serving as the “sleigh” bearing gifts — pro­ceeded down Trooper Drive from the 1st ABCT motor pool on Custer Hill. After it came to a stop at, dozens of Soldiers unloaded the sleigh in minutes.

     The contribution joined hundreds of other toys on the shelves at the workshop, in­cluding a delivery of at least another 800 toys by the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, the previous morning, said Sgt. 1st Class Jorge Medina of the 1st CAB Headquarters and Headquarters Company and helper at the Op Santa work­shop.

     The program is of value to the number of Soldiers and family members who arrived at Rally Point to shop for gifts. Among them was An­nettia Manuel, spouse of Cpl. Matthew Manuel, 5th Squad­ron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div.

     “I actually like it because it helps out, like if you’re going through something and you’re not able to give to your kids like you want to you can come here and sign up,” Annettia said. “To me, the re­sponse back (from Op Santa) was quick­er than I expected. I dropped my paper­work off and I got a call within an hour.”

      For 1st ABCT Command Sgt. Maj. Quentin V. Fenderson, the importance of Op Santa and the donations made by his brigade come down to one thing.

     “We’ve got to take care of our own,” he said. “We have the responsibility to take care of each other. A lot of times that gets misunderstood, and the thought process is ‘well you only do these things when you’re in the field or deployed … but you start building that resiliency and the family time throughout … And this is a perfect opportunity to do that.”

      When asked how many “Devil” bri­gade Soldiers might need Op Santa this year, Fenderson says it’s hard to get a fix on those numbers but, ultimately, the question of how many doesn’t matter.

      “We try to create an environment that, no matter what, it’s here and available for you,” he said. “We don’t look at numbers; we just, say, ‘if you need it, it’s here.’”

     This kind of effort requires plan­ning and teamwork. For Staff Sgt. Do­ralene Griffin-Wiggins, 1st ABCT Fam­ily Readiness Liaison and Fayetteville, North Carolina native, who helped or­chestrate the event for the brigade, all that was needed was the backing of the brigade’s senior leadership.

       “The planning part wasn’t too dif­ficult,” Griffin-Wiggins said. “The Sgt. Maj. (Fenderson) and the Col. (Col. Charles Armstrong, commanding officer, 1st ABCT) came up with the vision, and I got together with the other FRLs in the brigade and we came up with the plan.”

     While some in the brigade had doubts as to how the toy delivery in military ve­hicles dressed as reindeers and sleighs would turn out, Fenderson was sure it would work.

       “Hey, it’s going to be in the paper,” he said.


Tag Operation Santa Claus