In less than two weeks Soldiers in Training will experience hurry up and wait for the first time as they queue up waiting for planes, trains, and buses to take them home for the holidays.There are two more Fridays on the training calendar until drill sergeants and unit leadership take a breather.Saturday, Dec. 17, will live in each Soldier's mind as they head home for exodus, or as Fort Jackson calls it, Victory Block Leave. Exodus is a time-honored ritual for Soldiers in basic training in December -- they are allowed to pack their gear into their wall lockers, put on their Army Service Uniforms and get a two-week respite from their transformation from civilians into Soldiers.Last year, Pvt. Kameran Nabors was giddy at spending time with relatives. He said the last time they saw him "I had an Afro."For most Soldiers this will be the first time their Families have seen them since they shipped off to basic, and the first time they will see them sans hair.For this retiree, who in 1993 longed to spend Christmas with Family even with a freshly bald head and wearing the ugly "birth control glasses," seeing the reaction of privates being able to visit home for only a brief respite from training is priceless.I recently had the luxury of seeing the reactions of Soldiers as they purchased tickets to transport them home, and feeling their excitement that they were actually going to get to go home -- and it reminded me of that time so many years ago when the elation of getting away from the fragrance of basic training -- a dollop of pine oil mixed with a dash of weapons cleaning solution and chased with a shot of CS gas for good measure -- was something out of a long-awaited dream.My body was filled with nervous energy waiting for my grandfather and aunt to drive down from Illinois to pick me up that snow-filled Fort Knox, Kentucky morning.What would they think? Had I changed?I was rail thin back then, nearly 45 pounds lighter then today, and merely a shell of the man the Army would make me, yet confidence born from Army training oozed from my pores as I visited my Family for the first time in nearly three months.My Family's eye lit up when they saw me because I had been transformed. My relatives (and those who didn't know me from Adam) could tell I was in the military (buzz cut and BCGs notwithstanding) because I walked with purpose and confidence instilled in me by countless push-ups and flutter kicks administered by drill sergeants to reinforce discipline on an undisciplined "kid" from Southern California.That first "vacation" during my military service would set the standard for which all others would measure. It was only rivaled by rest and recuperation leave taken during my two combat deployments.I have witnessed the transformation of hundreds of Soldiers since I started working here at Fort Jackson and weekly get to see how excited they are to be graduating and heading out into their Army careers but exodus is special to me.There will be Soldiers like then Pvt. Alexander Malkiewicz who last year wished, "we didn't have to go" because he was still in the process of "breaking away from what you are taught your whole life." And those like me who were spending their first extended time away from home.As the 8,000 Soldiers conduct a mass exodus from Fort Jackson on Victory Block Leave I will revel in the chance to hear their stories and see if holiday leave transformed them as much as it did me.