By Mr. Robert Timmons (IMCOM)December 15, 2017
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."