When more than 6,000 trainees and Soldiers headed home for the Holidays it marked a milestone in their career while giving them a chance to recharge their batteries and come back to training fresh and motivated.

While standing in long queues, some trainees at the Solomon Center waiting patiently for the bus ride that would signal the start of their journeys home, took time to reflect on what going home meant for them.

Pvt. Faith Ketchum said going home was a "big" thing for her and that most people don't know "that it means a lot" to her. She planned on cooking, "playing and seeing my Family and friends."

Trainees like Pvt. Shania Grimes used the time to reconnect with loved ones while preparing to go through the last few weeks of training.

"It's been a long four months," she said before she departed, "and I'm excited to see them. I'm the oldest of nine children and seeing them again will make me so happy."

The ability to take leave during the holidays helps keep trainees focused and not feeling homesick over the holidays. If they trained through the holidays they may not concentrate hard enough on their training.

Victory Block Leave is important not only for Soldiers and their Families, but it "reinforces motivation and morale," said Capt. Derrick Bishop, a company commander on Fort Jackson.
Not only does it improve trainee focus, but helps unit cadre decompress from the rigors of their daily routines.

"Drill sergeants and cadre looked 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." Said Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Barnard, the senior enlisted leader for 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment.

When the Soldiers and trainees returned Tuesday and Wednesday some said they were looking forward to finishing the task at hand, finishing their training and moving on to their units.

(Editor's Note: Sgt. David Erskine with the South Carolina Army National Guard contributed to this report.)