Posts Tagged ‘#HomeFromTheArmy’
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)
It’s that time of year again – the holiday season is upon us. Not only do we see decorations and hear holiday music playing all over, but there’s another telltale sign – thousands of TRADOC Soldiers making their way home for the holidays through airports, train stations and bus depots all across our nation.
TRADOC’s Holiday Block Leave program, or HBL, sends more than 40,000 Soldiers from training centers nationwide back to their homes for the holidays. It offers troops throughout the training base – in basic combat training, advanced individual training, basic officer leader courses and many others – a well-deserved break from their initial military training.
HBL is also a chance for our great instructors, drill sergeants and other cadre to take knee and enjoy the season with their families.
This year’s program started Dec. 18, when more than 7,000 Soldiers from Fort Jackson, South Carolina, departed for their leave, most of whom went through Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Thanks to the great support of the USO of North Carolina (and others across the nation), our Soldiers had somewhere to comfortably wait for their flights, hot chow to fill their stomachs, and places to charge the cell phones they were so happy to be reunited with!
A number of the basic trainees represented TRADOC and the Army very ably during media engagements at the airport with various Charlotte, North Carolina, media outlets, as well as a nationally syndicated radio show and Army Times.
Our TRADOC centers of excellence will continue moving troops this week and I encourage you to speak with these young Soldiers, if you see them during your travels. Share your knowledge and experience, and make corrections professionally if they need to be made. These Soldiers are the future of our Army, and they only grow right with the investment of our time and attention.
My wife Claudia joins me in wishing you and your family a safe and enjoyable holiday. Best wishes for the holiday season!
Pictured above: U.S. Army Soldiers currently in Initial Entry Training (IET) at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, return home for the holidays during Victory Block Leave on December 18, 2017. Drill sergeants and other cadre assisted and supervised departure operations from Fort Jackson; the nearly 7,000 trainees left from four main transportation hubs, Atlanta, Columbia and Charlotte airports, and an Amtrak station in Columbia, S.C. Victory Block Leave will end on January 3, 2018. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Roby Di Giovine)
What is it?
Holiday Block Leave, unique to U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command initial military training units, marks an annual time when thousands of the U.S. Army’s newest Soldiers travel from their training centers across America to their homes for the holiday season.
What has the Army done?
Initial military training for enlisted Soldiers comprises basic combat training, advanced individual training and one station one unit training, which combines basic combat training and advanced individual training.
The Holiday Block Leave season keeps new Soldiers’ well-being foremost in leaders’ minds, providing a much-needed and well-deserved break from their initial military training to return to their families and reconnect over the holidays.
Learn more about the Holiday Block Leave Program here.
Pictured above: A trainee reunites with Family at Fort Benning to begin holiday block leave Dec. 18. (U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)
WASHINGTON — Thousands of Soldiers and their families are traveling home for the holidays, including about 44,000 trainees and cadre from initial-entry training centers.
The Soldiers are participating in a two-week Holiday Block Leave beginning Dec. 18, said Michael Brown, a training analyst at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training‘s Initial Entry Division.
These Soldiers are in various training sites across the U.S., going through Basic Combat Training, One Station Unit Training, Advanced Individual Training, the Basic Officer Leadership Course and Warrant Officer Basic Course, he said.
Normally, about 3 to 5 percent of these Soldiers choose to remain at their installation and not travel home, he added. For those who stay behind, units coordinate several Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities for them, to include attending professional sporting events.
Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, commander, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina Monday morning, granting media interviews about the holiday travel. Around him were thousands of Soldiers in training awaiting flights.
Holiday Block Leave gives Soldiers a chance to reconnect with their families, he said. About 7,000 Soldiers in training were traveling out of Fort Jackson Monday, “by trains, planes and automobiles,” and by buses too, he added.
Planning for this mass exodus is like planning for the D-Day landings, he added, describing the logistical challenges of packing them all out, giving them their safety and Army Values briefings and getting them to their preferred modes of transportation.
Most of those Soldiers will be telling the Army story back home, he said, and some will even have “embellished war stories.”
Most of them are young, as young as 17, he noted, but sprinkled among them are “elder statesmen,” some as old as 39. They are from every state in the Union.
Johnson praised the volunteers at the airport’s USO lounge who are particularly busy this time of year giving Soldiers a place to relax while awaiting their flights.
Pvt. Seth Akavickas was at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18, waiting for a flight to take him home to Wausau, Wisconsin.
Soldiers in training at Fort Jackson were given personalized assistance getting home by ticket vendors, Akavickas said. His ticket vendor got him discounted round-trip tickets for $480, which was a good deal, he noted.
Feb. 28 is when Akavickas began his Basic Combat Training, so he’s experienced life in the Army for some time now. Currently, he is in Advanced Individual Training and will graduate Feb. 1.
Akavickas said he has mixed feelings about Holiday Block Leave. On the one hand, he’ll be able to spend time with his family over the holidays. But on the other hand, he said he’d kind of like to stay and get training over with.
However, he added, the vast majority of Soldiers in training whom he’s spoken with are delighted for the break.
After AIT, Akavickas will return to Wisconsin to work as a human resource specialist in the National Guard. He said he plans to attend college through the ROTC program and then try to get commissioned in four years. He wants to make a career in the Army.
Pfc. Madeline Sallee was also at the Charlotte airport Dec. 18. She was heading home to Minnesota, on leave from Basic Combat Training and very happy to see her friends and family.
Sallee said the rest will be very good, particularly after some arduous training that included a 15-kilometer rucksack march and a lot of other physical activity.
The hardest part of training, she said, was spending the night outside when the temperature got down to 16F. “We were all shivering,” she added, despite being used to cold in her home state.
Sallee will graduate Feb. 1 and will become a logistical specialist. She said one of the cool things about basic was making a lot of new friends.
Staff Sgt. Domenic Buscemi, a drill sergeant from Fort Jackson, was also at the airport in Charlotte Monday. He said drill sergeants accompany their Soldiers to help facilitate movement through the airport and to ensure standards of discipline are adhered to at all times.
Soldiers in training are required to travel in uniform, which means they are still representing the Army even while they are away, he said.
Holiday Block Leave has some benefits, he said. It serves to boost morale and motivation and gives Soldiers a chance to recharge.
It also gives them time to reflect on their experiences and spread their short-but-memorable Army story back in their communities, he said.
When the Soldiers return, Jan. 3, they will have retained about 70 percent of their basic military knowledge, so there will be some re-learning, he said, along with re-establishing their military discipline.
Soldiers don’t get to travel home in the middle of their training cycle during the rest of the year, he noted. On Thanksgiving, they’re given one day off, but that’s not time enough to travel home for most.
Fifteen years ago, Buscemi was a Soldier in training at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was summer and it was hot, he said, much tougher than winter training weather-wise.
Buscemi said he’ll return to Fort Jackson today, take a day of rest, then pile into the car with his wife and drive to her family’s home in Oklahoma where they will spend the holidays.
Brown admitted that the break in the training cycle is tough on drill sergeants, who have to re-teach numerous tasks, including discipline and customs and courtesies, when the Soldiers return from leave.
However, he said “the break is also good for trainees who come back with a little more pride about training to be a Soldier.”
He added that as part of their leave departure briefing, “we ingrain into the trainees that they are a part of the Army Family now, and represent us all in everything they do while they are on leave.”
Holiday Block Leave for this time of year is automatically granted annually, Brown said, per Army Regulation 600-8-8.
Brown said the program is a success in that “99.9 percent” of the trainees will choose to return, most eager to resume their training and reach their graduation dates.
(Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @vergunARNEWS)
In less than a week, months of planning will make way for the wheels of Victory Block Leave to be set into motion.
Victory Block Leave, Holiday Block Leave and other monikers refer to the Army shutting down training in order to allow drill sergeants and trainees the opportunity to melt back into normal life for a brief few weeks before training ramps back up in January.
For nearly six months planners on Fort Jackson have been laying the groundwork for moving thousands of Soldiers home for the holidays and coordinating to take care of the trainees staying behind.Roughly 6,000 trainees across Jackson will descend on the Solomon Center where they will be signed out on leave, put into lines going to the airports and train and bus stations where they will catch their rides home. Each Soldier will be processed and put into the correct queue based on where and when they are departing. Once processed for departure trainees will board one of the 100 buses to move them out.
The final piece to the VBL puzzle is the cadre who will be at the transportation stations ensuring the troops are where they need to be and when they need to be there. Once the Soldiers leave, drill sergeants and other Basic Combat Training leaders will hang up their own kit bags and get some needed holiday rest as well.
“Victory Block leave is a busy time of the year for any battalion here at Fort Jackson, especially with Victory Block Leave prep and execution,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Barnard, the senior enlisted leader for 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment. “Drill sergeants and cadre look forward to block leave to spend quality time with Family and friends, especially the drill sergeants who work so hard during the year that they are excited not only for the holiday, but to get away from work to decompress.”
Not all trainees will be going home for the holidays — some have decided to stay back for a myriad of reasons. The estimated 310 trainees won’t be locked in the barracks, performing clean up details around post, but rather they will be treated to many different holiday attractions in and around the post, said Capt. Kevin Gertz with 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, the unit trainees will be assigned to during the duration of VBL.
“There are events nearly every day for the trainees,” Gertz said. “There is bowling at Century Lanes, Lights Before Christmas at the Riverside Zoo, a Christmas lunch with Congressman Joe Wilson, ice skating in Irmo, mini-golf, cookouts, a barbecue, and dinners off post for Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. Some events will happen simultaneously so they will have choices of which events they want to participate in.”
The Army coordinated these various activities for the trainees because most of them have never been away from home during the holidays before. The Army is their Family for this upcoming holiday season and will take good care of them.
“It is also very important for the trainees to have activities to do, as most of them are not likely accustomed to spending holidays apart from their loved ones,” Gertz said. “While it is a welcome break from the stress of Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, we still need to be aware that many of the trainees are not always mentally prepared for being away from home and/or loved ones during the holidays.
“For this reason it is important that we make sure they realize that they are not alone and there are fun and engaging activities in which they can choose to take part.”