Operation Supply Drop's founder Stephen Machuga has a little experience with getting care packages. After spending time serving in Iraq, he came back to the U.S. intent on doing something to boost morale of troops overseas.
Care packages are part of morale boosting, but the care packages Machuga and the men he served with received were anything but practical. We spoke to the men behind Operation Supply Drop to learn more about how the initiative came to be.
"I was part of an Infantry battalion, all men, and a library sent over a crate of third-hand Harlequin romance novels to us," Machuga told us. "Everyone kind of looked at one another like 'Uh...what do we do with these?' So we ended up using them on the confiscated arms range for target practice."
Obviously, that experience taught Machuga that people not serving in the military had no idea what troops in combat zones really need. So when he returned from his deployment, he started Operation Supply Drop, which sends video games and consoles to troops overseas.
A standard drop comes complete with one video game console, several controllers, games and headsets. Troops also get extras that developers throw in, such as T-shirts, buttons and collectibles.
"All we ask for when we send out these drops is that they send back pictures of them looking happy and holding up the stuff we had sent them," says Machuga. "When they do that, in appreciation, we send the troops a stack of Steam codes that developers have gifted us and allows us to involve our PC-only partners and troops that don't have access to consoles to benefit."
Going into 2015, though, Machuga, along with Operation Supply Drop CEO and Executive Director Glenn Banton, hope to expand the program to include other services. The organization has already launched a new program called The Teams, that currently has chapters in 7 U.S. cities, as well as in the U.K.
"It's really about extending from virtual and short-term support to building communities that combine the best of civilians, troops returning from overseas and veterans, wounded or otherwise, supporting each other for the long-term and on a daily basis," says Banton. "For our namesake program, the Supply Drop, we will continue to scale up and identify other areas where we can help with care packages, including pre-deployments, on-base morale boosting and homecomings events, to meet the needs or the current generation of active duty troops and veterans."
The group also plans on expanding their Thank You Deployment program, which offers all-expenses-paid trips for troops to events like E3, PAX and other game developer and publisher events.
"This is with an eye of not only providing an insider's experience, but also to provide valuable introductions and educate about what goes into the game making process, as so many active duty and veterans are passionate gamers and many have skills quite well suited to working in the video game industry professionally," says Banton.
Because of the popularity of the program, Operation Supply Drop also takes requests from men and women in the U.S. military. And it might surprise you that the games most requested are first-person shooters.
"Call of Duty or Battlefield games have been almost in every single wish list we've gotten from troops, followed up closely by Madden," says Machuga. "While this may seem counter-intuitive, sometimes make-believe violence and friendly competition where no one gets truly hurt are the best ways to relieve stress."
To learn more about Operation Supply Drop, as well as to donate, visit the official Operation Supply Drop website.