Across the United States, millions of people will travel to spend the holidays away from where they currently live.
In those numbers are more than 6,000 Advanced Individual Training (AIT) Soldiers and cadre assigned to U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) at Fort Lee, Virginia, and Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Every year, CASCOM leadership conducts Holiday Block Leave allowing AIT Soldiers, many who are still in their initial military training after basic training to take a break for the holidays before returning to graduate and head to their first-duty station.
“This is a human endeavor,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Hurley, commanding general, CASCOM and Fort Lee. “Many of these Soldiers are away from home for the first time and it is our responsibility to do the right thing and take care of our Soldiers.”
For the schools assigned to CASCOM, they conducted military movement planning similar to a deployment to ensure a safe movement of the Soldiers via air, rail, bus and privately owned vehicles (POV).
“Many of these Soldiers don’t own their own transportation. (Joining the Army) is the first time they have been away from home,” said Hurley. “It’s vital we have a plan to ensure each Soldier is able to spend time with Family and friends.”
Each of the five CASCOM schools – Quartermaster School, Ordnance School, Transportation School and Army Logistics University, all at Fort Lee, and the Soldier Support Institute, Fort Jackson – provided a movement plan covering check-in locations at local rail and bus stations and airport. They also set up an easily accessible location for Families to pick up their Soldiers by automobile. Transportation and Ordnance schools also had locations set up at geographically separated schools at Fort Eustis, Virginia, and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, respectively.
“We have instilled in our Soldiers that they are ambassadors (of the Army) while they travel,” said Col. Sean Davis, commander, 59th Ordnance Brigade. “Each Soldier is assigned a battle buddy while traveling and will maintain daily contact with each other during the break.”
Each school has a similar set up with the Soldiers watching out for each other during the break.
At the Fort Lee POV area Dec. 19, parents talked with each other about their Soldiers as they waited for them to finish outprocessing.
“I’m very happy to be able to pick up my son (for the holiday). I didn’t expect him to have time off this soon after basic training,” said Vincent Porter, who traveled from Clinton, Maryland, and is an Army veteran himself. “We come from a long-line of military veterans, my dad served and my oldest son is in the Air Force.”
A large portion of the Soldiers traveled by air and were bussed from the post to the airport where they caught their flights. For many of the Soldiers, this was the first time they had flown.
“We transport them to the airport, make sure they have their tickets and get checked in,” said Capt. Brian Hartley, J Company commander, Quartermaster School. “We also check their carry-on luggage to ensure they are not carrying anything that will hamper their movement through security.”
AIT Soldiers began departing Dec. 19 with all movement completed by Dec. 21. The Soldiers will return to their respective schools between Jan. 3 and 4.
CASCOM sustainment schools train more than 100,000 Soldiers as well as joint and international military members annually.
Pictured above: Pvt. Bryce Miller, advanced individual training Soldier in Ordnance School, hugs his mother, Cindy Miller, who traveled from Raleigh, North Carolina, to pick up her son Dec. 19 for holiday block leave. More than 600 Advanced Individual Training Soldiers attending U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) Ordnance School departed via privately owned vehicles to begin their holiday break. CASCOM sustainment schools will assist more than 6,000 Soldiers Dec. 19 – 21 going through training at Fort Lee and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, go home for the holidays. Holiday Block Leave is CASCOM’s planned two-week training break during the holiday season. CASCOM is comprised of the Quartermaster, Ordnance, and Transportation Schools, Army Logistics University and the Soldier Support Institute and trains more than 100,000 Soldiers as well as joint and international military members annually. (U.S. Army photo by Chris Hart)