See you next year: Soldiers take leave
December 17, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."
That's the name of a popular 1980s comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy.
They are also the three modes of transportation that thousands of Soldiers from Fort Jackson are using today to get home for the annual holiday exodus, otherwise known as Victory Block Leave.
Beginning late last night, buses began transporting Soldiers to airports in Columbia, Charlotte and Atlanta, as well as the Columbia train station. Some Soldiers are also leaving the post by privately owned vehicles.
Thousands of Soldiers will be traveling home today as the long anticipated block leave gets under way and the post empties.
"I'm just excited to go see my girls," said Pvt. Dayna Perry, Company A, 369th Adjutant General Battalion, of Pocatello, Idaho. "It's been four months since I've seen them."
Perry's battle buddy, Pvt. Stephanie Hart of West Warrick, R.I., said she will be spending the first several days of block leave in New York City.
"Other than that, I'm looking forward to relaxing and taking it easy for a while," Hart said. "It'll be nice to get away from Fort Jackson."
Lt. Col. Jody Stedman, G-3 chief of operations, said block leave preparations for Fort Jackson, the Army's largest training facility, is a monumental task involving many details.
Not the least of those details was ensuring each Soldier received an H1N1 vaccination prior to leaving for block leave. Soldiers will be screened for flu-like symptoms as they return to Fort Jackson.
There was also coordinating the dozens of buses required to transport Soldiers to transportation nodes locally and in nearby cities.
The Solomon Center, Coleman Gym and the Joe E. Mann Center are the three areas from which Soldiers are departing Fort Jackson.
The holdover battalion for those Soldiers not traveling for block leave is 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment.
Stedman said he is expecting approximately 200 holdover Soldiers. Activities have been planned for those Soldiers, including a holiday meal.
"Those Soldiers have not been forgotten," Stedman said. "They're going to have their own, special holiday activities."
Block leave ends just before midnight on Jan. 3.
"The final loop is everyone returning safely and continuing training," Stedman said.