Fort Jackson welcomes back Soldiers
A group of Soldiers returning from Block Leave waits in line in the MG Robert B. Solomon Center to have their military identification cards scanned. More than 6,000 Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training Soldiers returned from Block Leave last week.

On Jan. 2, the temperature in Daytona Beach, Fla. was 70 degrees. In Manati, Puerto Rico, it was a balmy 83 degrees.

Those warm, beach climates were a far cry from the 41 degrees that it was here when Pvt. Sean Whitfield and Pfc. Efrain Cruz, both Soldiers with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, arrived at the MG Robert B. Solomon Center last week signaling the end of Block Leave.

"It was so nice, I was on the beach yesterday," said Whitfield, a Florida native. "I felt bad just getting on the plane, leaving the warmth."

Whitfield and Cruz are two of the 6,826 Basic Combat Training or Advanced Individual Training Soldiers returning from Block Leave. This year's Block Leave period began Dec. 18. The two BCT Soldiers are slated to graduate Feb. 6 and will go on to AIT at Fort Lee, Va.

Besides the mild weather, both Soldiers said the biggest difference being home for the holidays centered on meal times.

"It's different when you're going to eat (and) people are talking to you and all you can see is your food," Cruz said. Unlike many families' holiday meals, BCT Soldiers' limited meal times are more about eating than socializing.

Whitfield added laughingly, "My girlfriend's parents said, 'You eat so much and so fast.'"

Sgt. 1st Class Tony Moten, a noncommissioned officer with the 171st Infantry Brigade, said processing the returning Soldiers went smoothly. He and several other Soldiers were responsible for making sure each returning Soldier had his or her military identification card, was correctly entered into the system and was returning to the correct unit.

Because many of the Soldiers graduated from BCT and went immediately on Block Leave, Moten said the most important part was ensuring those Soldiers made it to the right place.

"Most of the Soldiers don't really know, if they graduated, where they're supposed to be going," he said. "We just make sure they get to the where they're supposed to go."

"The Soldiers know exactly what's going on, so it's a really simple process," he said. All the Soldiers who come through here are wonderful. It's been a wonderful process. I credit that to the drill sergeants and the chain of command."

Crystal.Y.Brown@us.army.mil

Page last updated Fri January 9th, 2009 at 12:09