Fort Jackson's population is about to dwindle -- at least temporarily.

Victory Block Leave is right around the corner. Many Soldiers will be heading home next week to celebrate the holidays.

Trainees and drill sergeants alike have the opportunity to take leave from Dec. 19 to Jan. 2.
A few will remain to hold down the fort.

Everyone will take a break from training to have some fun before the new year kicks off.

Holdover activities for Soldiers staying behind will include ice skating, laser tag, pizza parties and more. Local churches will "adopt" some Soldiers on Christmas day.

Pvt. Trent Ashton Williams, recent Basic Combat Training graduate from the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, is one Soldier heading out for the holidays.

Williams is flying to his hometown of Mansfield, Ohio next week.

"I'm excited," he said. Having graduated Nov. 29, he hasn't seen his siblings for more than 11 weeks.

Williams said he is looking forward to spending Christmas, his favorite holiday, with friends and Family before leaving for Advanced Individual Training.

Soldiers remaining on post will be staying at 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, this year's holdover unit.

"We're going to have a bunch of Soldiers that are staying with us," said Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Ausbun from the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment.

Fort Jackson is making sure they get to join in the festivities, too.

That's important, since many are facing their first holiday season away from their Families.

They will be able to make some new traditions with their adopted Army Family this year.

"The strength of the Army is the Soldier, and the strength of the Soldier is the Family," Ausbun said.
The Directorate of Family, Morale, Recreation and Welfare coordinates with the holdover battalion to plan holiday events for the Soldiers staying behind every year.

The USO is another activity partner.

Soldiers will have access to games and gaming systems at the company provided by FMWR.

On Dec. 20, Soldiers can visit Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia.

The next day is dedicated to ice skating in Irmo.

A "Winter Wonderland" camp day will be held Dec. 22. Hay rides, flag football and dinner will be included.

Laser tag at the battalion is set for Dec. 23.

Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 mark two unit pizza parties.

A lunch with residents of Epworth Children's Home -- children from broken family systems -- is scheduled for Christmas day.

Other Soldiers will have dinner in the homes of their "adopted" Families Dec. 25.

Local churches have partnered with Fort Jackson to pair Soldiers remaining on post with families in surrounding communities. Soldiers will celebrate with them in their homes for the day.

On Dec. 28, River Bluff High School will host a party for Soldiers, complete with a DJ and food.
"We try to take care of the Soldiers during the holidays," Ausbun said.

It's an ever-continuing effort, he added, but it's especially important this time of year.