Homecoming: Soldiers return after holidays
January 5, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- For more than 7,500 Soldiers who train at Fort Jackson, the holiday season came to an end with their return from Victory Block Leave Monday. More than 8,500 Soldiers left the post Dec. 16, but about 1,000 moved on to Advanced Individual Training or other assignments.
After returning, the Soldiers had to sign in at the Solomon Center before being sent back to their units for drug testing and refresher training, explained Maj. Michael Ufford with the Fort Jackson G3.
Ufford said that planning for Victory Block Leave began in July.
Aca,!A"The biggest challenge is linking all the voices involved in this massive puzzle,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"Just about everybody on this post is affected by, if not directly involved in, Victory Block Leave; from directorates (and) units, to civilian contractors, as well as other military installations and organizations like Fort Benning and Fort Gordon and TRADOC and (civilian partners) like the Columbia, Charlotte and Atlanta airports and the Columbia Amtrak station.Aca,!A?
Ufford emphasized that one of the toughest challenges is coordinating ticket sales, which he said went extremely well.
Aca,!A"When all is said and done, I think all involved Aca,!" the units, directorates and civilian organizations Aca,!" can be proud of themselves for successfully executing a very challenging undertaking.Aca,!A?
But not all Soldiers went home for the holidays. Almost 200 Soldiers stayed at Fort Jackson for various reasons. Some chose to save leave or money, while others were scheduled to leave the Army for medical or other reasons, said Maj. Thomas Adkins, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, which was designated as this yearAca,!a,,cs holdover battalion.
For Pvt. Nicole Bryan, who is in Basic Combat Training with Company F, 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, the decision to stay was about wanting to stay in shape throughout the holiday season.
Aca,!A"If I had gone home, I would have been so excited about seeing family and friends and just spending the holidays,Aca,!A? Bryan said. Aca,!A"I knew that I would probably be too busy just spending the time with them instead of working out like I should be. Here (we have) had PT in the morning, so itAca,!a,,cs definitely benefitting me a lot more than going home.Aca,!A?
Adkins said that physical training is the only mandatory training event for Soldiers during Victory Block Leave.
Aca,!A"PT is nothing too strenuous because we have all different levels of people Aca,!" from red phase all the way to just short of graduation Aca,!" so we have to kind of trim it down to the lowest common denominator,Aca,!A? he explained.
For the rest of the time, the Soldiers were able to participate in a number of activities organized by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the USO. For Pvt. Travis Briles, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, one of the highlights was attending sporting events, such as NBA and NFL games in Charlotte, University of South Carolina basketball games and the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Aca,!A"ThatAca,!a,,cs something that most people donAca,!a,,ct have the opportunity to do (that) often,Aca,!A? Briles said. Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cve had a great time.Aca,!A?
Other activities included trips to the zoo, movie theater, shopping mall and bowling alley, as well as video game and athletic competitions.
On Christmas Eve, Soldiers were presented a special meal by the 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment dining facility before attending a USO holiday party.
Aca,!A"I havenAca,!a,,ct eaten this good in a long time,Aca,!A? said Pvt. Devin Rickard, Company B, 2-39th. Aca,!A"They fed us really well.Aca,!A?
For Bryan, being with her fellow Soldiers helped ease the pain of being away from home on Christmas for the first time.
Aca,!A"People around you make you feel like youAca,!a,,cre family. And the Army is your family now,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"We were looking out for each other because we understood that people were upset because they couldnAca,!a,,ct go home, and maybe it wasnAca,!a,,ct their choice that they couldnAca,!a,,ct go home. ... There was a day when I was really upset, and a couple of my battle buddies were talking to me, and they helped me get my mind off things.Aca,!A?
Rickard said he doesnAca,!a,,ct regret staying on Fort Jackson for the holidays.
Aca,!A"You save a lot of leave, you save a lot of pay ... and youAca,!a,,cre guaranteed three meals a day,Aca,!A? Rickard said. Aca,!A"You get the chance to do PT, to keep in shape, to keep in the Army mindset. That way, whenever (we) go back to basic training, I feel like weAca,!a,,cre going to be a step ahead of our comrades who went home.Aca,!A?