Randall R. Oler – Sergeant, United States Army

PRESS RELEASE: Civil affairs Soldier dies during training
U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School Public Affairs Office


FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA, April 20, 2004 – A Soldier assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School died here Thursday during airborne training.

Sergeant First Class Randall R. Oler, 43, a Civil Affairs specialist and operations sergeant assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne), was pronounced dead at Womack Army Medical Center after he collapsed aboard a C-130 aircraft during a daytime static line airborne operation.

The incident is under investigation.

A native of Morristown, Tennessee, Oler entered the Army on October 15, 1979, and completed infantry advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1980 and Civil Affairs training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1995.

His assignments include a tour with 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from 1979 to 1983 and reserve tours with 3rd Battalion, 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) from 1984 to 1991.

During his career, Oler participated in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Provide Comfort and Operation Joint Endeavor.

His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal, the Driver and Mechanic Badge, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, the Pathfinder Badge and the Special Forces tab.

He is survived by his wife, Pamela, his six children and his parents, Franklin and Mary Oler of Morristown, Tennessee.

As a Civil Affairs specialist, Oler's humanitarian spirit was evident throughout the community for his work as the founder of Operation Toy Drop, a community service project to provide toys to disadvantaged children during which paratroopers donate toys in exchange for a chance to jump.

Randall Oler passed away last week. He was one of the greatest persons that I have ever known.
Published on: 22 April 2004
Soldier developed Toy Drop
By Henry Cuningham
Military editor

Sergeant First Class Randall R. Oler was remembered Wednesday for developing a small Saturday parachute jump into an annual tradition that draws 2,000 paratroopers and provides toys for needy children.

In Operation Toy Drop, soldiers donate a new, unwrapped child's toy on a Friday in early December to be put on the manifest for a parachute jump the next day. People donate toys after spaces run out. Jumpmasters from other countries participate, giving soldiers an opportunity to earn foreign parachutist badges during the operation. The seventh annual Toy Drop will be in December.

Through the initiative of Oler, who was a staff sergeant, Operation Toy Drop grew and now brings together Fort Bragg, Pope Air Force Base, foreign military jumpmasters and the local community, said Col. Michael Rose, chief of staff of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

The 43-year-old soldier was pronounced dead Thursday at Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Bragg after he collapsed aboard a C-130 Hercules cargo airplane during a daytime parachute operation. Womack officials said he died of natural causes.

Rose's voice cracked with emotion as he concluded his remarks during a morning memorial service at Northwood Temple Church on Ramsey Street.

Using terms familiar to parachutists, he said, ”I offer up our final report of, ‘All OK, jumpmaster.”'

Oler, a native of Morristown, Tennessee, was a civil affairs specialist and an Operations Sergeant assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Special Warfare Training Group. He had served in Ranger and Special Forces battalions.

As a sergeant, Oler was ”credible and incredible,” Lieutenant Colonel Curtis Boyd, his battalion commander, said during the ceremony.

”Everyone wanted to be around Randy,” Boyd said. ”You knew something good would come of it.”

During the ceremony, friends recalled their memories of Oler, who frequently had a cigarette in one hand and a Mountain Dew in the other and could get by on two hours of sleep a night. He was a dedicated father and devoted fan of University of Tennessee football. Oler hid a ”very sharp mind” behind a ”humble country-boy exterior,” one speaker said. He made folksy cracks such as, ”She was tougher than Chinese arithmetic.”

Sergeant First Class Ed McGraw discussed Oler after the ceremony.

”He was a mountain of a man,” McGrawsaid. ”He was probably 6-4, 235 pounds, and he was just a big, big man.”

After Toy Drop ballooned into a huge event, Oler ”was like Atlas holding up the operation,” McGraw said.

”He had lots of knowledge that he willingly shared with us,” McGraw said. ”Some people, information is power. Some people keep the power to themselves, and that was not Randy. Randy always let people know what was going on. He was mission-oriented.”

Like other speakers, McGraw described Oler as a dynamic sergeant who made things happen.

”He could get anything done,” McGraw said. ”It made no difference. There was no obstacle too large for Randy to conquer. That has rubbed off on all of us. We are a much better battalion for Randy Oler.”

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday in Mayes Mortuary in Morristown, Tenn. Burial will be Tuesday in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 08/29/1960
  • DATE OF DEATH: 04/15/2004

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